Handball rules updated by IFAB for 2020-21 season

This season has seen a multitude of goals disallowed for offences in the build-up, but that is set to change next term

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has announced that tweaks have been made to the laws of the game heading into the 2020-21 season, with perhaps the most interesting being to what should and should not be called as a handball offence in the build-up to a goal.

At present, video assistant referees (VAR) will disallow a goal and pull back play for a free-kick if any attacking player is deemed to have touched the ball with their hand or arm in the build-up, by accident or otherwise, leading to teams feeling hard done by if an individual gets in the way through no fault of their own.

For clarity, a handball offence is characterised by the ball touching anywhere from the tip of a player’s fingers to their upper arm, directly in line with the bottom of the armpit – essentially meaning anything below the shoulder is a foul.

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A plethora of sides have seen goals chopped off in recent times due to accidental handballs, but the new rules for the upcoming season will give attacking sides more leeway.

A statement from the IFAB reads: “‘Accidental’ handball by an attacking player (or team-mate) is only penalised if it occurs ‘immediately’ before a goal or clear goal-scoring opportunity.

“If an attacking player accidentally touches the ball with their hand or arm and the ball then goes to another attacking player and the attacking team immediately scores, this is a handball offence.

“It is not an offence if, after an accidental handball, the ball travels some distance (pass or dribble) and/or there are several passes before the goal or goal-scoring opportunity.”

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Other updates to the laws of the game include goalposts and crossbars, which can now be a combination of the four basic approved shapes: square, rectangular, round or elliptical – provided they are not dangerous.

Additionally, goalkeepers will not be penalised for prematurely coming off their line during penalty kicks provided the kick taker misses or sees their shot rebound back into play – assuming the keeper is not deemed to have affected the kick taker.

Should a goalkeeper be deemed to have committed an offence on a penalty kick, they will receive a warning for the first and a yellow card for any following offences.

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