• Jesus handball controversy won’t be a trigger for change, insists Ifab

    Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus appeals to the referee after his goal is ruled out by VAR during the Premier League match at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

    The controversy surrounding Gabriel Jesus’ disallowed winner for Manchester City on Saturday will not be a ‘trigger’ to review the handball law.

    Jesus’ goal against Tottenham was disallowed after a VAR review spotted that the ball had deflected to him off the hand of City defender Aymeric Laporte.

    Under changes to the laws of the game which took effect from 1 June, any use of the hand which leads to a goal or a goal-scoring opportunity will be penalised, whether intentional or otherwise.

    A spokesman for the International Football Association Board (Ifab), which governs the laws of the game, said there are no plans to review the rules surrounding handball. Improvements to any of the game’s rules are possible at the instigation of the Ifab’s panels if there is ‘a strong feeling’ that a particular regulation is not working out as hoped.

    ‘We sometimes have single incidents which cause a debate,’ Lukas Brud, the secretary of Ifab, told the PA news agency.

    ‘But I wouldn’t say they are triggers for us to review the law – the laws are fairly clear. It’s more about acceptance and communication rather than saying “Oh, now we have to react immediately and change something.”

    ‘We constantly monitor what is happening in football every day.

    ‘If we feel that something needs to be reviewed, then of course we put it on the agenda, we discuss it with the various bodies of the Ifab, including our panels who also bring comments forward sometimes, because many of them are pundits talking about football on a daily basis.

    ‘If there is a strong feeling that something has to change then we start the process again. We make a proposal, if something is wrong, to amend the law.’

    The changes on handball were discussed by the football advisory panel – which included former Reading and Newcastle goalkeeper Shaka Hislop and 1998 World Cup-winner Christian Karembeu at the time – and the technical advisory panel before being rubber-stamped at the Ifab’s annual general meeting in March.

    Brud said the motivation for the changes was to remove some of ‘the grey zone’ surrounding handball and take away the element of interpretation in relation to a goal being scored.

    He accepted that it was more ‘tricky’ when a defending team commits a handball, as the referee has to be satisfied that a goal would clearly have resulted had the ball not been touched by a defender’s hand.

    The introduction of VAR to the Premier League has inevitably led to it being the major talking point of the season so far, but Brud is pleased with how the technology is working across football.

    ‘Other sports have warned us it will not be perfect tomorrow – it will take some time,’ he said.

    ‘We’ve learned a lot from NFL, from the NBA, from rugby, from everywhere, and we feel the principles and practicalities of VAR should stay – for now – as they are.

    ‘Together with Fifa, we are constantly trying to improve the education of the VARs. It’s also about education of the public about how VAR is being applied.’

    VAR has been criticised for effectively stripping the joy out of celebrating a goal, and for going beyond its remit to eliminate ‘clear and obvious’ errors.

    But Brud said: ‘It might not be taking something away from the game, but it’s creating another level of anticipation [as everyone awaits the outcome of the VAR review].

    ‘If it wasn’t a goal because it was incorrectly awarded, football will accept it because it’s a fair outcome.’

    On the accusations of mission creep, Brud added: ‘I don’t think we are going away from “clear and obvious”. This is the main trigger for intervening and helping the referee on the field.’

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