Football across the globe has changed vastly in recent months. Be it empty stadiums, drinks breaks or bumping elbows, the sport has been tweaked and altered to keep running during a challenging time.
But, with the 2020/21 Premier League season kicking-off today (Saturday 12th), there have been plenty of changes that fans may have missed, too. To bring you up to speed, we've listed everything that's changed for 20/21, and what you need to keep an eye on.
These changes have come from premierleague.com, and are confirmed by the league itself.
The Premier League has launched a new anthem ahead of the 2020/21 season, which will be played at Premier League stadiums providing a soundtrack to the moments before kick-off.
The anthem was recorded and produced at venues including the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London.
The Nike Flight ball will first be used competitively when Fulham host Arsenal at 12:30 this Saturday.
The Premier League says this ball has taken eight years of experimental design work to complete and offers improved aerodynamics through a revolutionary ball design.
💥 Pace, precision and explosiveness.— Premier League (@premierleague) July 29, 2020
Are you ready for @NikeFootball’s new Premier League match ball? 🎯
Introducing the official 2020/21 Premier League Nike Flight ball #Playwithlove 👉 https://t.co/tL0aqKkB5C pic.twitter.com/AYahTd35ZC
The Palace squad have used this ball in training since their return three weeks ago, and have also used it in recent friendly matches.
20/21 will see new officials in charge of matches, with two new referees and two new assistants being accepted into Select Group 1 (the country's panel of top referees).
The new refs, Darren England and Robert Jones, both have experience in the top-flight, with England having been an assistant between 2012-15 and fourth official last season and Jones also a fourth official last season.
Referees will also wear three new uniforms, described as 'volt', 'hyper-turquoise' and 'vivid purple'...
The new assistant referees are James Mainwaring and Tim Wood.
New rules - including VAR
The Premier League agreed to revert to allowing only three substitutions per team for the upcoming campaign, with a maximum of seven subs on the bench.
They also outlined five key areas that highlight the difference in implementation of VAR for 20/21, as listed verbatim below:
- Referee Review Area (RRA): Increased use of the RRA, which will be used for subjective decisions in the three key areas - goals, red cards and penalty kicks
- Goalkeeper encroachment on penalty kicks: The protocol does not allow for tolerance levels, so if the goalkeeper saves a penalty and his foot is over the line then VAR will advise it is retaken. If the goalkeeper is off his line and the ball hits the post or goes over, it won’t be retaken unless the 'keeper has a material impact on the kick being missed
- Player encroachment on penalty kicks: It is now judged on any part of a player’s body that is on the ground when the kick is taken. So if any part of the foot is on the penalty area or arc line it is encroachment. The player must still have a material impact on the outcome of the kick
- Offsides: The protocol does not allow for tolerance levels
- Keeping the flag down for tight marginal offside offences: When an immediate goalscoring opportunity is likely to occur, the assistant referee will keep their flag down until the passage of play is completed. Once the goalscoring opportunity is complete, either a goal is scored or the chance is gone, the assistant will then raise the flag to indicate the initial offence. If a goal is scored the VAR will then review the offside judgement
Match preview: Crystal Palace v Southampton - Palace's first 2020/21 Premier League game11 September 2020
Newly promoted clubs mean teams will meet in the Premier League for the first time, taking the competition's unique fixture total to 887.
Keep an eye out for Leeds United v Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley, and Sheffield United v West Bromwich Albion.
Palace haven't faced newly promoted Leeds in the Premier League since 1998, last taking on West Brom in the 2018/19 League Cup and Fulham in February 2019.
New rules on handball
A statement from The International Football Association Board (IFAB) regarding 20/21 Premier League rules reads:
"'Accidental' handball by an attacking player (or teammate) 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."
This changes the law from disallowing a goal for any accidental handball in the build-up to scoring, regardless of intent.