Hey Dave: What’s with the new handball rule?

Referee Peter Bankes gestures during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham and Newcastle at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. Photo by Andrew Boyers/Pool via AP Photos.

Well, so much for it being a great time to be a Tottenham fan. 

Matchday 3 in the Premier League was filled with many surprises, from Chelsea’s “too close for comfort” match against newly promoted West Brom where they came back and drew 3-3, to Manchester City losing 5-2 to Leicester City with Jamie Vardy securing a hat kick. But nothing seemed to have erupted soccer Twitter with anger more than the “handball” that resulted in a 1-1 equalizer for Newcastle at the death against Tottenham Hotspur. 

Tottenham just can’t get a break from having unlucky calls on them, and they most certainly get them in the harshest way possible out of any team in the topflight. 

What exactly happened you ask? In the 92nd minute, the Magpies took a free kick and the ball was headed towards Andy Caroll’s way in the penalty box where he tried to head it towards the goal. The ball ended up hitting Eric Dier, who was in front of him, on the back of his shoulder. After the play went dead, VAR intercepted and reviewed the incident where it was determined Newcastle would be awarded a penalty. 

So, what is this changed handball rule? Established by the International Football Association Board, or IFAB, this season, fouls will be called against defenders if the ball hits them while they make themselves “unnaturally bigger” with their arms. On top of that, IFAB also determined that hands or arms that go above shoulder height are “unnatural positions.” If you’ve ever played the sport, specifically as a defender, you know how difficult it is to be perfectly balanced when challenging the ball without your arms up; keep in mind, defenders also have to try their best to avoid fouls. You cannot properly defend with your hands tied behind your back. This change to the handball rule is an utter disgrace to the beautiful game. 

This is the one time where I actually feel bad for Eric Dier giving away something like a penalty. Like many Spurs fans, Jose Mourinho was absolutely disgusted with the call, and when he was asked about his thoughts about the handball that led to a penalty, he said, “I don’t want to speak about it. If I want to give some money away, I give to charities, I don’t want to give to the FA, so I prefer not to comment.” Even Newcastle manager Steve Bruce wasn’t happy with the rule, despite getting a point out of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Tottenham wasn’t the only team affected this weekend, as Crystal Palace was dealt a similar hand in their match against Everton where they lost 2-1 because of the abysmal rule change. The game was stopped in the 37th minute after Lucas Digne’s header hitting the hand of defender Joel Ward was reviewed by the referee, resulting in a handball on Ward and a penalty for the Toffees. But as I stated earlier, Tottenham’s handball controversy had a much larger uproar. 

This handball rule needs to go, sooner rather than later. It’s going to kill the game greatly this season, and it’s clear that managers, players and even fans of the league do not want this rule to continue any longer. The handball rules need to be reverted back to ones implemented last season. 

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