IFAB Q&A: What’s on the agenda as football lawmakers hold their AGM? | Football News


Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Bryan Swanson reviews what is on the agenda as football lawmakers hold their annual general meeting.

Will the handball law change?

Yes – there is agreement that the wording needs to change to reduce confusion but handball will always be subjective.

The International Football Association Board [IFAB], which is made up of representatives from FIFA and the four British associations, accepts that a referees’ interpretation of handball incidents “has not always been consistent”.

IFAB introduced clarifications to the handball law in 2019 and, under Law 12, the wording was tightened to note it is an offence if a player, “scores in the opponents’ goal directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper”.

Federico Fernandez's handball gave Sheffield United a penalty which earned them a 1-0 win over Newcastle
There have been a number of contentious handball decisions this season

It is also an offence if a player touches the ball with their hand/arm when, “the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger.”

But, after talks with football and technical advisory panels in November, IFAB said: “It was agreed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence.

“In terms of ‘unnaturally bigger’, referees should judge the position of the hand/arm in relation to the player’s movement in that situation.”

Will this impact Premier League refereeing?

Yes – all referees in world football must apply IFAB’s Laws of the Game.

Sky Sports News has been told the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) is ‘pleased’ that the handball law will be discussed but did not make a formal request to the Football Association for any specific changes.

PGMOL referees officiate all Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and FA competitions.

How will players feel?

Any clarity on the handball law will be welcomed by players and all participants of the game.

Tottenham’s Eric Dier says players have been “terrified” of the new handball law, insisting it has made life more difficult for defenders who now second guess themselves before going in for a challenge in the box.

Andy Carroll heads the ball against the arm of Eric Dier
Earlier in the season, Newcastle were awarded a penalty after Andy Carroll headed the ball against the arm of Eric Dier

Dier’s handball against Newcastle in September – when he rose to a challenge in the air with Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, who headed the ball, at close range, against the raised arm of the Spurs player – has raised questions about what constitutes a handball offence.

“You’re terrified in and around the box with the new rule,” Dier said. “You don’t feel free to act, to try to play in a normal way. Sometimes it’s difficult because it’s something that can come back to bite you and is still an opinion.”

Is a law change immediate?

No – any law change approved at the IFAB AGM isn’t effective until June 1.

What else will be discussed?

Lawmakers will discuss ongoing trials over concussion substitutes, the increased temporary number of substitutes – in response to the coronavirus pandemic – and offside.

But no laws are expected to change.

What about VAR?

FIFA will provide an update on the use of Video Assistant Referees around the world since it took full operational control of VAR in July last year.

A FIFA spokesperson has told Sky Sports News: “FIFA is overall very satisfied with how VAR is used around the world. It is a fact that VAR has ultimately led to a significant increase in correct decisions and this is something FIFA is both pleased about and proud of.

Referee Lee Mason confers with VAR over Lewis Dunk's disallowed free kick (AP)
Referee Lee Mason confers with VAR over Lewis Dunk’s disallowed free kick at West Brom last weekend

“FIFA, in collaboration with IFAB, will always strive to further improve VAR in order to simplify the final decision, which will always remain with the referee.”

FIFA will present findings on its VAR “light” concept, which “aims to create more affordable systems to enable the use of VAR at all levels of the game”.

When will referees communicate to fans?

No time soon.

Lawmakers have put talks on hold over allowing referees to communicate their VAR decisions directly to supporters.

Discussions took place in Belfast last year over how to improve communication to fans over the use of VAR technology in the game.

One idea, discussed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), was to allow competitions to explain a referee’s decision around the stadium.

It involved supporters hearing a final decision, and brief explanation, from a referee, but fans would still be unable to listen to match officials during the decision-making process.

However, after agreeing to a further evaluation, talks over direct communication have been ‘paused’ ahead of this year’s annual general meeting, Sky Sports News has been told.

FIFA says it can see ‘benefits’ to live communication, but further analysis is required before a final decision.

Is the AGM online or in person?

This will be the first IFAB AGM to be held online, due to travel restrictions imposed by coronavirus.

Each year the host of IFAB rotates between FIFA (Switzerland), FA (England), IFA (Northern Ireland), SFA (Scotland) and FAW (Wales).

This year, the AGM will be chaired by Kieran O’Connor, President of the Football Association of Wales.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is scheduled to attend, along with Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of global football development, Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA referees’ committee, and the most powerful administrators in the game.

www.skysports.com 2021-03-04 16:55:00


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