The average first innings score in a Test match is around 325. Suppose the ICC introduced a new rule which, overnight, altered a decent total to 850? That is what the new handball law has done to English football.
It has impacted the game so dramatically it can only be an aberration. It is impossible to justify such a seismic effect. FIFA’s arbiters have not changed a rule; they have changed a sport.
The greatest number of penalties awarded in a Premier League season — the modern era is our only realistic comparison here — is 112 in 2009-10. Coming out of Sunday’s games there had been 20 given already, in just 26 matches.
Andy Carroll headed the ball against Eric Dier’s arm and Newcastle were awarded a penalty
At this rate there will be 292 penalties this season — so 2.6 times the record rate. That is not fair, logical or reasonable.
Take any mean statistic in sport and multiply it by 2.6 and the ludicrousness of this becomes apparent. The average score in the NBA last season was 111.8. What rule change would be required to make that 290.6? A ban on defensive players jumping? A basket six times the size? Hitting the backboard counts as three points?
The average driving distance on the 2019 PGA Tour was 293.8 yards. What if technology stretched that to 763.8 yards? Par fives could be reached in one shot, with a middling iron. That’s no longer golf. But it’s also just a multiplication of 2.6.
And, remember, the example here is not the average number of penalties, but the record. The average is low 80s. We’re almost a quarter of the way to that number already and four teams haven’t played three games yet.
So this is wrong. It doesn’t matter whether you can see what the officials were trying to do. It doesn’t matter that they had the game’s best interests at heart. This is a terrible mistake and, if it is not corrected, the sole rationale would be that certain teams have already been so affected that it can only be fair if every club is equally disadvantaged over 38 matches.
No way to run a game, though, is it, all lurching swings and 180 degree turns? Last season, the rules were unfairly weighted towards defenders.
A ball could strike a defensive arm in the penalty area and be viewed as accidental, but if it so much as glanced a player who was on the attack, anywhere in the build-up to a goal, that was a foul.
When Tottenham played Sheffield United, a ball was kicked against Lucas Moura as he fell after being tripped, but it rebounded to Harry Kane, who scored. The verdict? Handball and a disallowed goal. For the restart, Tottenham did not even get a free-kick for the foul tackle.
When West Ham played Sheffield United the ball was headed against Declan Rice as he ran. Sheffield United’s John Egan was actually across Rice’s body to divert the ball off his chest and on to his arm.
VAR intervened last season after the ball was headed onto Declan Rice’s arm via his chest
It was a point-blank collision, impossible…