Handball and diving punishments could face shake-up as football grandees call for change

By Sports Desk April 25, 2023

UEFA's new star-studded football board has called for a rethink on the refereeing of handball offences in an intervention that could lead to fewer penalties and red cards.

A panel featuring Fabio Capello, Jurgen Klinsmann, Ronald Koeman, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane made a range of recommendations after its inaugural meeting in Nyon, Switzerland.

The group also called for referees to get tougher with diving players by being "more decisive" in dealing with those who attempt to gain free-kicks or penalties through con tricks.

UEFA, which is European football's governing body, said discussions were "engaging and constructive" as the elite board considered the Laws of the Game, which are set by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

Also attending were the likes of Rafael Benitez, Petr Cech, Philipp Lahm, Michael Laudrup, Javier Zanetti, Patrick Vieira, Gareth Southgate and Rudi Voller.

UEFA was urged by the board to clarify that handball should not be called if the ball deflects off a player's body and onto their arm or hand, especially when the ball does not go towards goal.

It was also recommended that handball following a shot at goal should not automatically be punished by a caution.

The newly formed board met at UEFA's headquarters and said the European confederation should make the case to IFAB that its rules are too clear-cut regarding red cards for handballs that prevent a goal.

In a statement, UEFA said that when it comes to such a situation, the board "feels players should be sent off only if they deliberately and intentionally touch the ball with their hand/arm" and in other circumstances a yellow card should suffice.

UEFA chief of football Zvonimir Boban said: "Having such beautiful football minds around the same table proved to be not just desirable but necessary.

"It was a true honour to be part of such an open and genuine discussion, and I am confident that we have found reasonable solutions to overcome a few stumbling blocks that negatively impact what happens on the field of play.

"It might sound like a banality, but mistakes happen, and we should not stigmatise them, influenced by the shirt we wear. The handball rule, for example, will always be disputed, but we can make it more consistent and aligned with the game's true nature."

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    The Three Lions took the lead in the 18th minute through Harry Kane after a nervous start in Frankfurt, but as it played out against Serbia, were unable to build on their lead. 

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    But unlike their Group C opener, this time his side were punished when Morten Hjulmand took aim from distance and fired an effort beyond the grasp of Jordan Pickford. 

    "The manager has expressed that he wants us to play free, attacking football," Walker told BBC Sport when asked if Southgate's instructions were to sit back after taking the lead. 

    "Sometimes, in tournament football, you have to manage the game, it is what it is that is why it is so hard to win tournaments, just like the Champions League. 

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    Walker, who made his 85th appearance for England against Denmark, is one of the more experienced heads in the Three Lions' ranks and is vice-captain to former team-mate Kane. 

    When asked what he would say to the squad following the result, Walker: "They will know as individuals and as a team collective, we all know that we have another gear, but we have not lost the game. 

    "Obviously, everyone wants us to come and steam roll teams three or four nil, but it's not football, it's not football these days. 

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  • Walker defends Southgate tactics following England draw Walker defends Southgate tactics following England draw

    Kyle Walker was quick to defend Gareth Southgate and his tactics following England's 1-1 draw with Denmark. 

    The Three Lions took the lead in the 18th minute through Harry Kane after a nervous start in Frankfurt, but as it played out against Serbia, were unable to build on their lead. 

    A criticism of Southgate during his England has been the defensive nature of his team when scoring the opening goal, despite the plethora of talent at his disposal. 

    But unlike their Group C opener, this time his side were punished when Morten Hjulmand took aim from distance and fired an effort beyond the grasp of Jordan Pickford. 

    "The manager has expressed that he wants us to play free, attacking football," Walker told BBC Sport when asked if Southgate's instructions were to sit back after taking the lead. 

    "Sometimes, in tournament football, you have to manage the game, it is what it is that is why it is so hard to win tournaments, just like the Champions League. 

    "It's tough when you come to these grounds and in hostile environments, but we know that we can do better. But, we are top of the group, so let's move on to that."

    Walker, who made his 85th appearance for England against Denmark, is one of the more experienced heads in the Three Lions' ranks and is vice-captain to former team-mate Kane. 

    When asked what he would say to the squad following the result, Walker: "They will know as individuals and as a team collective, we all know that we have another gear, but we have not lost the game. 

    "Obviously, everyone wants us to come and steam roll teams three or four nil, but it's not football, it's not football these days. 

    "We have got a point, we will move on. We are top of the group, and we just keep going like that."

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    Denmark, who looked the more likely to win it in the second half, sit second, ahead of Slovenia and Serbia, who drew in Thursday's earlier match.

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    The Three Lions continued their run of having never won their opening two matches at a European Championship tournament, and a disjointed midfield remains a problem for Southgate, with Trent Alexander-Arnold once again replaced early in the second half by Conor Gallagher, and it appears crucial that balance is found sooner rather than later. 

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    All eyes on Munich for Denmark 

    Denmark will arguably be the more disappointed of the two sides, given they looked more likely to score late on.

    Hjulmand's side outfought and outplayed England at times, but were unable to improve their record against the Three Lions and have now failed to beat them in their previous four meetings (D2 L2) at major tournaments.

    But the Danes can take the positives from their performance, registering more shots (16 to 12) and more possession (51%) than their opponents, but the result is the most important statistic next Tuesday when they take on Serbia.

    Denmark have now won just one of their last 10 group stage games at major international tournaments, beating Russia 4-1 on matchday three at Euro 2020.

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