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UEFA president says handball rule is causing discomfort, frustration

FOOTBALL By Reuters | November 6th 2020 | 2 min read
March 3, 2020 UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin during the UEFA Congress REUTERS

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has asked FIFA to change the handball rule, saying the current interpretation has led to unfair decisions which had caused "growing frustration and discomfort" in the sport.

In a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Ceferin said penalties had been awarded in situations where it was impossible for the defending player to avoid contact with the ball, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

Following changes to the law in 2019, handball can be awarded in cases where the player's arm has made the body "unnaturally bigger" or if it is raised above the shoulder, whether it was intentional or not.

The idea was to make the law clearer but Ceferin, the head of European soccer's governing body, believes it has had the opposite effect.

"The attempt to strictly define the cases where handling the ball is an offence has resulted in many unfair decisions which have been met with growing frustration and discomfort by the football community," he said.

Ceferin's appeal has followed a spate of decisions in domestic and international competition where players have conceded penalties or had goals disallowed for unwittingly touching the ball.

World soccer body FIFA has four votes on the rule-making International Football Association Board (IFAB) while the associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have one each.

Ceferin added that defenders had been forced to adopt unnatural positions, such as putting their arms behind their backs to avoid the risk of their arm being accidentally hit by the ball.

“There are also plenty of situations where hands/arms exposed outside the profile of the body in moves which are understood to be natural, unintentional and unavoidable have been punished with penalty kicks," he said.

"This is no good service to the game.”

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