Handball: Who Is to Blame?

Liverpool FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
The handball law has been wreaking havoc this season - but who's to blame? | Visionhaus/Getty Images

The handball law has been wreaking havoc in Premier League games up and down the country during the opening weekends of top flight action, with players and managers who have both benefited and been victims of the rule change left equally bemused.

Referees have poured over their monitors, replaying action in slow-mo from all kinds of angles before penalising players for the most minuscule of offences - for the likes of Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Brighton, these decisions have cost them points.

There's no better way to settle the handball law controversy than with 90min's tried and tested Who Is To Blame? series. Having already got to the bottom of Chelsea's defensive issues, the turmoil at Barcelona and the state of Manchester United, there is no better method to determine where it's all gone wrong.

Let's take a deep dive into just who is to blame for the handball mayhem.

20. Joey from Friends

How You Doin Flirting GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

We're all told that the International Football Association Board are responsible for the game's laws, but if you think about it, the new handball law was actually written by Joey in series five of Friends - the One in Vegas - when he met his identical hand twin.

"This hand is your hand, this hand is my hand, oh wait that's your hand...oh wait my hand."

Blame Rating: 0.2/10

19. Women

Ri Hyang-ok
Scotland were on the receiving end of numerous VAR calls at the 2019 World Cup | Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Issues with the new interpretations of the handball law first arose at the 2019 Women's World Cup, as chaotic penalty decisions were awarded left, right and centre.

But did we learn from the frustrations that the tournament threw up?


Whose fault is that?

Women. All the women. Alex Morgan, Claire Balding, Emmeline Pankhurst. Hang your heads in shame, look what the beautiful game has become.

Blame Rating: 0.3/10

18. Europe

Are Brussels controlling us again? Probably not
Are Brussels controlling us again? Probably not | Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Women may have let the game down, but there was still time for Europe to warn the rest of us about the mayhem of the new handball law.

Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga were all using the new interpretation of the law that has just come into play this season in the Premier League during the 2019/20 campaign - and record numbers of penalties were subsequently awarded in Italy and Spain.

But, still bummed out by Brexit, our European friends let English football stumble blindly into the madness.

Blame Rating: 0.4/10

17. Jake Humphrey

The BT presenter has been wielding his influence on Twitter for some time, taking to social media to air his grievances when Willy Boly netted with his hand against Manchester City back in August 2018.

"The decision not to bring VAR into the PL this season is ridiculous", he wrote. "The game needs it."

Would you look where that thought process got us all, Jake.

Blame Rating: 0.5/10

16. Richard Keys

Richard Keys
Keys' football blog is a critically acclaimed literary phenomenon | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Writing on his masterpiece of a blog, Keys actually confessed that he and beINSPORTS had been nigh on influential in the handball law changes in the top flight.

"A season of pressure - mainly from us at beINSPORTS - led to a change in the way we use VAR in the Premier League," Keys wrote.

"Refs are now asked to look at pitchside monitors when there are ‘subjective’ decisions to be made. Quite right too. The ‘match day’ ref HAS to have the final decision on these things."

Unless they're female, presumably.

Blame Rating: 1/10

15. K9

Tom Baker
K9 is the one in the middle | Photoshot/Getty Images

Remember the robot dog from old school Doctor Who? He then came out of retirement and made a comeback in the naughties, like Paul Scholes.

This fictional creation is the reason we've become overly comfortable with technology today.

Do you think we'd have let VAR invade the beautiful game if we hadn't become accustomed to seeing a robotic dog zooming about our screens in the 70s?

Blame Rating: 1.4/10

14. Timbaland

The singer/song writer literally wrote a song called Hands In The Air. Where he told us, repeatedly, to put our hands up in the air.

We all know that we put our hands behind our backs to ensure that we don't give the referee a decision to make.

Blame Rating: 1.5/10

13. Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard
Lampard's ghost goal eventually led to goal line technology, which in turn led to VAR | Clive Mason/Getty Images

At the heart of this handball madness is VAR, which all stemmed from the success of goal line technology.

The straw that broke the camel's (Sepp Blatter's) back in regards to goal line technology finally being implemented was Frank Lampard's infamous ghost goal at the 2010 World Cup against Germany.

If the Chelsea midfielder had just hit row Z or had the accuracy to find the top corner instead of the underside of the crossbar, we'd still be trusting the tried and tested naked eye of match officials.

Blame Rating: 1.8/10

12. Cricket

South Africa v Sri Lanka - 2nd Test
Cricket was the first sport to use Hawk Eye | Gallo Images/Getty Images

The godforsaken sport that gave us technology in the first place.

Hawk Eye was first used during England's Test match with Pakistan in May 2001 for innocent LBW calls and has been a wholehearted success.

Nineteen years later and look what has been unleashed.

Blame Rating: 2/10

11. Gary Lineker

The England legend, Match of the Day host and crisp enthusiast has been a stringent critic of the new handball law...and yet in January 2016, he took to Twitter to wade in with a brand new suggestion regarding the laws of the game.

"It's time they changed the handball law," Lineker wrote. "Make it that every time it strikes a hand/arm it's a free-kick/penalty regardless of intent."

Someone high up read that tweet and four and a half years later, the game is dead.

Blame Rating: 3/10

10. The BBC

50 Years of Match of the Day
The Match of the Day presenter power can be too much for some people | Peter Dench/Getty Images

For giving Lineker a platform. Take a leaf out of Richard Keys' book Gary; only speak when appropriate, stay in your lane and keep your thoughts to yourself.

Blame Rating: 3.5/10

9. Those Posh Boys Who Invented Football

Back in the good old days, football was the people's game.

In the 17th and 18th century, English villagers would play the game over 'pitches' stretching miles with a pigs bladder for a ball and some lightly sketched out rules. Could you use your hands? Who cares? Could you be violent? Absolutely.

But as we now seemingly say on a weekly basis, the game's dead. The public school boys - very much the Stockley Park of the 1800s - came up with a codified set of rules, where handling the ball was forbidden.

Return the pig bladders and the three mile football field, we want our game back.

Blame Rating: 4/10

8. Arms

joel ward
Joel Ward's arms were just too in the way as he conceded a penalty against Everton | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

For always being unnaturally positioned.

Arms are constantly clearly outside of the body line, frequently being extended laterally or vertically, frequently and are forever being raised above the shoulder.

Our greatest enemy is ourselves.

Blame Rating: 4.5/10

7. Mike Dean

Mike Dean
It's the drama Mike, I just love it | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Referees are being royally stitched up by the law changes and they are predominantly not to blame.

However, the new ruling has added an extra layer of drama and gravitas to the role of the referee.

And if there's one referee who lives for the limelight, it's your boy Mike Dean. He gets a warm glow inside every time he's advised to go and look at the monitor.

Blame Rating: 5/10

6. Hawk Eye

St. James's Place Battle Of The Brits Team Tennis - Day 3
If anything, Hawk Eye is now too good | Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Listen, the technology is top notch. Goal line technology? An absolute game changer. Love what you've done with the tennis too, really adds a bit of atmosphere at Wimbledon.

But did the Hawk Eye boffins have to be quite so clever? They've invented a technology that should mean that a game will never see a decision debated again...and yet all we're doing is debating decisions.

Blame Rating: 5.5/10

5. Stockley Park

VAR is operated out of Stockley Park | MLADEN ANTONOV/Getty Images

It sounds like it should be a fun, family holiday destination, somewhere in budget between Butlins and Centre Parcs.

Instead it's just a few rule-sticklers sitting in caravan being the ultimate referee back seat driver.

Listen, we know the Stockley Park lot didn't make up the laws, but they aren't half a bunch of fun sponges.

Blame Rating: 6/10

4. The Premier League

West Ham United v Newcastle United - Premier League
Did the Premier League have to adhere to Fifa's new ruling? | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

In all fairness, Fifa did tell the Premier League to toe the line and adhere to the same interpretation of the law as everyone else in world football.

But did the Premier League really have to obey? It is the biggest league in the world and all that.

Having seen how the new law was affecting the game across Europe and having chosen not to adopt the law during the 2019/20 season, could the Premier League have grown a backbone and stuck up for itself a little bit?

Blame Rating: 7/10

3. VAR

Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United - Premier League
When the robots took over | Clive Rose/Getty Images

The new handball law was brought in last season across Europe to accommodate VAR. The law is an attempt to make what had once been a subjective decision - whether someone had deliberately handled the ball - objective, like a goal or the offside rule.

VAR then enables referees to watch the potential handball clip back in slow motion, multiple times from multiple angles, losing any real context and realism of the incident in the process.

Without the implementation of VAR, there'd be no daft new law.

Blame rating: 8.5/10

2. Fifa

Fifa are only slightly at fault for a change | JOE KLAMAR/Getty Images

Fifa technically aren't responsible for the jurisdiction of the laws of the game. That's down to the International Football Association Board (there might be more on them later.)

No, the laws of the game are nothing to do with Fifa. They just have members who are represented on the Football Association Board and hold 50% of the voting power.

Plus, Fifa are now in charge of VAR implementation and ordered all leagues (basically just the Premier League because everyone else was already doing it) to strictly and consistently apply the same interpretation of the handball laws as everyone else.

But hey, probably not the worst thing Fifa have ever been found guilty of.

Blame Rating: 9/10

1. The International Football Association Board

Fifa hold 50 % of the voting power on the International Football Association Board | JOE KLAMAR/Getty Images

Believe it or not, these are the people in charge of the laws of the game, not Gary Lineker.

They were the people responsible for writing: "For the purposes of determining handball offences, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit."

Which is effectively where the notion of accidental handball came to an end and the decisions we are now seeing every week stemmed from.

They were also responsible for implementing VAR into football in the first place.

Blame Level: 10/10