LONDON – Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce described the new interpretation of the handball law in the Premier League as “nonsense” despite benefiting from the latest controversial decision on Sunday.
Newcastle were given a stoppage-time penalty after the referee, using the VAR monitor, ruled that Eric Dier had handled the ball as he jumped up for an aerial challenge with Newcastle’s Andy Carroll.
Dier had his back to the ball and the header hit his outstretched arm at close-range but referee Peter Bankes awarded the penalty which was converted to give Bruce’s team a 1-1 draw.
In practice, the new interpretation of the law, which allows less leeway for cases where the ball strikes an arm or hand, is resulting in more offences being given for what would once have been viewed as accidental handball.
On Saturday, Crystal Palace lost to Everton after a penalty was awarded for a handball against Joel Ward and Manchester United won their game at Brighton 3-2 thanks to a handball penalty awarded by VAR after the final whistle.
Steve Bruce on the penalty:
“We’ve got away with one. I thought VAR was coming in for clear and obvious decisions. It ruins, for me, the spectacle of the Premier League. I should be delighted but I know it will bite me eventually. All we seem to be talking about is VAR.” pic.twitter.com/QHdJjkOSOE
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) September 27, 2020
Palace’s former England manager Roy Hodgson was scathing in his comments after the Ward incident, describing the rule as a nonsense and saying it was ruining the game.
Bruce agreed with Hodgson’s assessment.
“I can understand why Spurs will go berserk and Roy Hodgson reacted like he did. It is a total nonsense, we should be jumping through hoops but I would be devastated if that was us.
“Maybe Roy is right, maybe we all need to get together. The decisions are ruining the spectacle,” Bruce added.
“I thought VAR was coming in for clear and obvious decisions. It ruins, for me, the spectacle of the Premier League. I should be delighted but I know it will bite me eventually. All we seem to be talking about is VAR,” he added.
The Premier League had previously taken a slightly different approach to VAR and the interpretation of the handball law to many European leagues but it has fallen into line this season.
Long-standing British television commentator Clive Tyldesley posted an impassioned video on social media calling on fans to lobby the football authorities to change the rule.
— Clive Tyldesley (@CliveTyldesley) September 27, 2020
“I’ve never known football so united about anything. But it’s our fault. We demanded consistency and that’s what we have got: consistent insanity,” he said.
Bruce sympathised with Dier, who was seemingly punished for having extended his arm while he jumped.
“It’s impossible to jump without putting your arms up to give you balance. It’s a nonsense. The whole VAR and handball thing in particular this year is a total nonsense.”