August 8, 2020, 19:19

Premier League rules: VAR, handball, different goal kicks and more

Premier League rules: VAR, handball, different goal kicks and more

Do not get caught out on any of the Premier League’s new rules coming in next season – stay clued up with our handy guide.

Major changes are being introduced to the way handball is penalised, goal kicks are taken and even how red cards can be turned into yellows.

The new rules have been introduced by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) which meets each year to decide on any future changes, and consists of representatives from the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish football associations, as well as FIFA.

Here, we look at what the IFAB have come up with…


Old law: Handling the ball must be deliberate. The two things taken into account are the movement of a player’s arm towards the ball and the distance between them and whoever last played the ball.

New law: If a player deliberately touches the ball they are penalised, but a foul will also be given if they create a chance or score a goal from an accidental handball. Any incident where a player’s arms have been raised above shoulder-height is also likely to be given, or if they have made their body ‘unnaturally’ bigger.

However, if the ball hits a player’s hand or arm from close-range, their arm is close to the body or used to support their body while falling will usually not be punished.

Why? IFAB say ‘greater clarity’ is needed over the existing handball rules – which have often been criticised for trying to quantify intent. They say certain accidental incidents, which are now incorporated in the laws of the game, should not ‘be accepted’.


Old law: For any infringement or stoppage the referee’s decision is final, although they may overturn it before play restarts.

New law: Goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity will be taken on by VAR in the Premier League, having already been adopted in competitions including the Champions League, FA Cup and World Cup.

Each referee will be assisted by a team of VAR assistants at Stockley Park, the Premier League match officials’ base, who will advise them on those situations, but they will also be able to review decisions through a television screen on the touchline.

Referees will also be able to make players return to the pitch even if they have already blown the half-time or full-time whistle, if they use the VAR review monitor to overturn a decision made before the half had ended.

To aid communication within stadiums, graphics will also be displayed to explain when a decision is being reviewed – and as appropriate and where possible, the Premier League has announced video clips will be shown on screens to explain the reasons behind a decision being made too.

Why? Premier League clubs voted to introduce VAR from the start of 2019/20 last November. During last summer’s World Cup, it was said to have improved the accuracy of refereeing decisions to 99.3 per cent.


Old law: Although players are not required to leave the pitch via the half-way line, in most circumstances they would do so.

New law: Players must leave the pitch by the nearest point on the touchline unless the referee allows them to do so by the referee, for safety or injury reasons.

Why? The IFAB have said they are trying to crack down on time-wasting by shortening the distance it takes for a player to leave the pitch.

Goal kicks

Old law: When a goal kick is taken, players from either side apart from the player taking the kick should be outside the penalty area, and the ball is not considered in play until it has left the area.

New law: The ball is in play from the moment it is kicked and moves. Opposition players still in the area because they have not had time to leave are permitted, and can intercept the goal kick.

Why? IFAB have experimented with this law and say it has resulted in ‘a faster and more dynamic restart to the game’ from goal kicks.

Yellows and reds

Old law: Play may not be restarted until the referee has finished issuing a yellow or red card, if they have decided to award one.

New law: If the attacking team wishes and the referee has not started to issue the card, they can take a quick free-kick at this point so long as it creates a goalscoring opportunity. The referee will then issue the card when the ball next goes out of play.

However, if the referee was about to send off the player who has given away the foul for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, they will only receive a yellow card if the attacking team takes the quick free-kick.

Why? IFAB say it is unfair if an attack is ‘lost’ to give out a yellow or red card, as quick free-kicks are already allowed if there is no card involved.

Dropped balls

Old law: Anywhere on the pitch, any player from either side may contest a dropped ball.

New law: If a dropped ball is given inside either penalty area, it is dropped for the defending team’s goalkeeper when play restarts.

For dropped balls outside the penalty area, the ball is dropped for a player on whichever team last touched the ball. All other players must remain at least 4.5 yards away from the ball until play restarts.


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