Former referee Paolo Casarin blasted the new handball rules and increased use of VAR. “Reason is dying in football and the referee is being delegitimised, but we must stop play for racist abuse.”
The changes to the handball interpretation has to all intents and purposes ruled out the difference between a voluntary block and involuntary ricochet.
“I saw the penalty they gave against Matthijs de Ligt,” Casarin wrote in the Corriere dello Sport, referring to the Euro 2020 qualifier between the Netherlands and Germany.
“He is in a natural position, the opponent is behind him, there is no attempt to damage the move by intercepting with his hand. According to traditional readings of the rules, it is a classic involuntary gesture.
“But with the exception for an involuntary handball, reason is also dying in football. If you tell the referee that handball is always a penalty, you modify the relationship between foul and punishment. The punishment should not stand regardless of how the player acts. If you are sanctioned the same way for an accident and an unintentional error, then football is no longer reasonable.
“At the same time, a referee who has his capacity to evaluate and decide taken away is no longer a referee. He becomes purely a passive figure, actuating rules. He stops being the man who interprets the rule, explains it to the player and imposes it as a symbol of ethics in sport.
“Technology ought to help us improve, but technology can tell us if the ball has crossed over the line, if it is offside or not. For the rest, the referee ought to make the decisions.
“I am not against VAR at all, but we must understand there is a limit and beyond that the referee is delegitimised. If I am three metres away from a handball, I can tell if it was voluntary or not.”
Casarin also disagrees with the current Italian Referees Association stance that the officials cannot halt play for racist abuse, as that is down to the Serie A and FIGC observers in the stadium, whose main job it is to protect public order.
“Referees must protect players from any form of discrimination. If someone tries to break another player’s legs, the referee intervenes.
“If a player is racially abused, the referee should give the only possible response: stop play until the rules are respected. The referee is the custodian of fair play and must warn that if a player is offended in such shameful fashion, we do not have the bare minimum ethical conditions for the game to continue.”