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Explaining Premier League's new handball interpretation and effect on Everton penalty

15 October 2020

Before the latest round of fixtures, the Premier League altered its guidance to referees regarding the handball interpretation, reacting to a series of controversial recent decisions - including that which saw Palace lose to Everton.

Joel Ward was penalised when a Lucas Digne header struck his arm in the box, enabling Richarlison to score from 12 yards and secure Everton the three points.

Under the new Premier League guidance, this would no longer be adjudged as handball.

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Altered Premier League guidance

In determining whether or not a handball should be penalised the following factors will be considered:

Position of the arm

  • Where the arm is in an expected position given the player's action
  • This includes where the arms are clearly used for balance and/or protection it is less likely to be penalised
  • The arms may be outside the player's bodyline and may not be penalised

Ability to react

  • Where it is clear that the player does not have the ability to react

Direct shot at goal

  • Whether the contact with the arm clearly blocks a direct shot towards goal

These points soften the interpretation of the handball law that were brought in for the 20/21 season, which originally penalised players for the ball hitting the arm in an extended position, regardless of that position being natural or having the ability to react.

This means, had Ward's handball been assessed under the new guidance, no penalty would be awarded as:

  • Ward's arm was in an expected position given his action
  • He had limited ability to react

That said, Palace's penalty against Manchester United would not have been awarded either - with Victor Lindelof's arm also in an expected position and having little time to react.

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