The Weekend’s Premier League Handball Penalty Decisions – Ranked

Peter Bankes
Spurs were VERY hard done | Newcastle United/Getty Images

Let’s get this straight first of all, the calls we’ve seen in the Premier League this weekend have all been correct. Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Brighton were all adjudged to have had players handle in the penalty box.

It’s the law itself which is utter tosh.

Changes to the rules have now meant that pretty much any handball where the arm is not by the side is a foul. For the 2020/21 season, the Premier League has sought to clarify the rules to be that if a ball strikes an arm or hand when it’s in an unnatural position, then it’s against the rules. Even if it hits your leg and bounces up onto your arm – see Robin Koch at Anfield – it’s still a penalty.

In the footballing stratosphere, not one voice has come out in defence of the new rules. Not one. When you see the decision that went against Eric Dier deep into stoppage time on Sunday, there is little wonder why.

Here are the weekend’s handball penalty award decisions, ranked from best to worst.

This one was conclusive. Brighton thought they’d snatched a point from their quite ridiculous encounter with Manchester United at the AMEX Stadium, only for drama to ensue after the full-time whistle.

Neal Maupay can’t have any complaints, mind. He jumped leading with his arm towards Harry Maguire, who’d directed a header towards goal, foolishly raising it high enough that the effort deflected off his wrist. Very silly, very clear. Even if it was from very close proximity.

But to add to the madness we’re seeing almost every match, the decision to review the foul and point to the spot came after the referee blew to end the game. The rules state that the referee can still make decisions after full-time as long as they haven’t left the field of play, so there are no qualms there (still bonkers, though).

So, the handball rule is an absolute travesty and it can be enforced after full-time. Welcome to the Premier League, friends.

Over in south London, it was Palace’s turn to feel the wrath of the rules.

Lucas Digne received a cross on the edge of the box where opted to connect with a downward header. Just a couple of yards away from him was a crouched Joel Ward who, you would think, was stood in a generally accepted ‘natural’ position.

Keeping his balance with his arms either side, it’s not like he was trying to take flight. They were out, but not massively so.

Yet Digne’s header was angled down and struck Ward’s left arm. No movement towards the ball, no blocking of a clear goal. Nothing of the sort. Sticking to the rules, though, the referee consulted his pitchside monitor and pointed to the spot.

Never a penalty. ‘The game has gone mad’, as they’d say. One thing you can’t say, however, is that the referees aren’t consistent.

Tottenham were cruising at home to Newcastle on Sunday afternoon. They were only leading 1-0, but could easily – and should easily – have been three or four goals up against their bland opponents. The Magpies offered nothing at all in an attacking sense, yet they’ve left north London with a point.

How? Because the rules are appalling.

Andy Carroll did his best to get on to a deep free kick, something he managed to achieve when he headed the ball across the box near the 18-yard line. Dier, with his back facing Carroll as he doesn’t reach the ball, is then looking in the opposite direction when the striker heads it onto the back of his arm from the length of a Pringles can.

It’s so close, and there is nothing Dier can do about it.

Eric DierEric Dier
Rightfully aggrieved. | Clive Rose/Getty Images

However, since his arm was in an ‘unnatural’ position – not by his sides – the referee reviewed his monitor and awarded the spot-kick. Callum Wilson scored. The idea that your arm is in an unnatural position when you jump is just pure folly, though.

Who jumps with their arms by their side? Literally nobody does that. If anything, it should be the other way around. Sadly, as ludicrous as it was, we can expect plenty more of those to come.