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Football’s laws surrounding handball are about to change. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The International Football Association Board (The IFAB) has announced key clarifications to the handball law, which will come into force from July 1.

Players will no longer be penalised if an accidental handball leads to a teammate scoring a goal or having a goal-scoring opportunity. Fulham thought they had equalised against Tottenham in the Premier League on Thursday night, but Josh Maja’s goal was disallowed for a handball in the build-up by Mario Lemina. The goal would not be ruled out next season.

The changes were proposed at the IFAB’s technical advisory panels in December and are not a direct result of any one incident.

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The IFAB also moved to clarify the interpretation of defensive handball, underlining that handball should only be considered if the position of their arm is not a consequence of the player’s body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalised.

Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of the FIFA referees committee, admitted that the lawmakers had “gone too far” in disallowing goals when the ball had been accidentally handled by a team-mate before a goal was scored.

Arsene Wenger also made a presentation to the IFAB Board proposing a change to the offside law, which would mean a player would be onside if any part of their body was level with the second-last defender. However, at present there are no confirmed plans to push ahead with this change, and it would require extensive trials before entering the Laws.

The IFAB confirmed that trials of Artificial Intelligence-driven semi-automated VAR offside technology, aimed at speeding up the VAR process and making it more accurate, were successful at the Club World Cup in February, and the plan remains to implement it at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

VAR-lite was also approved, which will enable more leagues with limited budgets to use the technology at a much lower cost. The representatives of the Welsh and Northern Ireland associations said they would look to implement this as soon as possible.


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