Referees Chief Says UCL Penalty Would Not Be Given in Premier League as He Discusses VAR in 2019/20


The chief of referees in England has said that Premier League fans have nothing to worry about with the introduction of VAR and new handball​ rules next season, saying that match officials will look to lean minimally on the technology. A new handball rule came into play last month, leading to a controversial penalty given against Moussa Sissoko in the Champions League final, while the widespread application of VAR has led to similar controversies, most recently in the Women’s World Cup in France. Both will come into play for the first time in the Premier League next season, but Mike Riley, managing director of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) has said that they will have a minimal impact on matches in England, since referees will make the conscious choice to apply them sensibly. ​“There are still areas of interpretation around the way the new handball has been written – effectively what you consider to be an unnatural position of hands and arms,” Riley said, via the ​Times.  “In this country we have always said – and this is the players and managers saying it to us –  that arms are part of the game and as long as you are not trying to extend your body to block a shot then there is more scope so that we don’t penalise. “We have worked to our guidelines for the last three or four seasons and by and large, people accept that’s the interpretation we apply and I don’t think that changes next season. Riley went on, saying that the Sissoko handball incident that put ​Tottenham on the back foot in the opening stages of the ​Champions League final – with ​Liverpool winning  2-0 – would not have been given in the ​Premier League.  “Sissoko’s a really interesting one,” Riley added. “In real time it looks a clear penalty. With VAR you can actually see what he’s doing, and he’s not interested in trying to block the cross, he’s saying to the covering defender, ‘Get over there and fill the space.’ “That’s not a deliberate act of extending the arm away from the body. You also see the ball deflects off the chest on to the arm, and if you put everything together and apply the philosophy we do here, we wouldn’t say that was handball.” Concluding, Riley outlined how often you should expect to see prolonged VAR checks that have taken as much as four minutes out of matches in France this summer, while maintaining that fans should be patient in its early stages. “On a Premier League weekend you can expect a review twice in every ten games,” he said. “About once each game we have to complete a check but that average delay is 20 seconds, and is usually completed by the time the goal celebration is over. “It is the most fundamental change in the game that has happened in my lifetime. “If you go to cricket, if you go to rugby union and rugby league, it took them between five and ten years to get it in a way that they think it really enhances their sport.”