Did “our boys” change the handball rule?

21 August 2019
What was claimed

“Our boys” didn’t change the handball and VAR rules in association football.

Our verdict

Changes to the VAR rules were made unanimously by IFAB. British football associations had the ability to veto this change, but all four voted in favour. Details of the vote to change the handball rule have not yet been released, but at least two of the four British FAs would have had to vote in favour of it.

[On the VAR decision to disallow a Manchester City goal for handball in their 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur]

“So I don’t think that’s our boys making up that new change of law. I think that’s people telling us what we should do with our game. They should stop doing that. I hope we get out of Brexit because that’s what we all voted for. And sort that out because you cannot have someone telling us how to do our own game.”

Ian Holloway, 20 August 2019

Saturday’s Premier League clash between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur ended in controversy as a last-minute winner by City striker Gabriel Jesus was disallowed for handball in the build-up.

While referee Michael Oliver didn’t see the handball, the video assistant referee (VAR) showed the ball hitting Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte on the way through to Jesus.

This touches on two new changes to the rules of association football.

Firstly, allowing the use of VAR, a system where off-field officials use video footage to review key on-field incidents, with the ability to advise the on-field referee to change their initial decision. Secondly, changes to the handball law which, among other things, include disallowing goals where the opportunity was created by an attacking player gaining control or possession of the ball after it touched their arm or hand, even if the handling was accidental.

This led football manager Ian Holloway to suggest on Sky Sports that the law changes in question were not made by “our boys”, and that other people shouldn’t tell “us how to do our own game”. Mr Holloway also mentioned Brexit, but it’s not clear if he was suggesting that the EU has any role in setting the rules of football or the rules on VAR and handballs in particular.

Firstly, Brexit (or the EU more generally) has nothing to do with the laws of association football. The laws of the game are maintained by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). IFAB is made up of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and FIFA.

British football associations have more influence over the rules of the game than any others. Each of the four British associations gets one vote during IFAB decision making processes, while FIFA, representing the other 207 national associations, gets four votes. Motions require a three quarters majority to be passed, meaning British associations have the power to block any new rule if three out of four of them vote against it.

All four British football associations voted in favour of VAR being approved for use in football competitions.

The decision to allow VAR as an option for football competitions was made by IFAB unanimously in March 2018. The decision to use VAR in the English Premier League was made unanimously by Premier League clubs in November 2018.

As for handball rule change, made this year, the minutes of that meeting have not yet been released and the FA would not tell us how it voted on the rule change.

However, as mentioned, at least two of the four British associations would have had to vote for the rule change for it to pass.

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