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Football's handball law is set to have its ‘biggest change for 80 years’

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Of all football’s rules, the handball law is the one that tends to spark most debate.

The laws of the game specifically state that: “handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm”.

However, it’s down to the referee’s interpretation whether or not the handball in question is ‘deliberate’ - and this grey area has led to countless controversial moments at all levels of the sport down the years.

Any law that is down to the referee’s interpretation will always lead to differences of opinion and, subsequently, ‘incorrect’ decisions.

However, The Times have revealed that football’s law-making body - the International Football Association Board (Ifab) - are about to bring in what is described as ‘the biggest change to the handball law for 80 years’.

The rule will mean that accidental handballs can be penalised in certain circumstances.

As things stand, the laws of the game state that handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.

The following must be considered:

* The movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
* The distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
* The position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence
* Touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) is an offence
* Hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) is an offence
* The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. Inside their penalty area, the goalkeeper cannot be guilty of a handling offence incurring a direct free kick or any related sanction but can be guilty of handling offences that incur an indirect free kick.

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But accidental handballs that lead to a goal will soon be eligible for punishment, too.

“The existing law states that only deliberate handballs should be penalised by referees but the International Football Association Board (Ifab) is likely to change it at its meeting in March in Aberdeen, so that if the impact of an accidental handball leads to a goal then that can be penalised too,” The Times add.

“David Elleray, the technical director of Ifab, said the proposal for the new law would keep the word ‘deliberate’ for most situations — including when a defender handles the ball in the penalty area - but that there should be occasions when the referee awards a free kick even if the handball was not intentional.”

Football fans on social media, however, have mixed feelings over the law, with some believing it will only lead to more confusion and VAR stoppages…

The new rule would prevent goals like Laurent Koscielny’s v Burnley back in October 2016.

That handball was not deliberate, so it was a perfectly legal goal.

As Dermot Gallagher explained at the time, per Sky Sports: “It struck him and we are stuck with the rule where it has to be deliberate. People said his arms were up but that's because he used his arms for elevation. He has actually mis-kicked it, it has flown up and hit him, so it's not hand to ball, it's ball to hand. There is nothing wrong in the law with what happened.”

However, this would no longer be the case under the new handball rule and the goal would subsequently be disallowed.

Willy Boly’s goal against Manchester City from earlier this season is another example of a goal that would be chalked off under the new laws.

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