Refereeing designator Nicola Rizzoli admits ‘there is undoubtedly a problem’ with the current handball rules, but he ‘expected more’ from players, coaches and directors.
There have already been a record number of penalties awarded in Serie A this season with four rounds still to play and 50 of them were for handball.
“The development of technology has evolved to such a degree that the shift in sport can be compared to the industrial revolution in the mid-1800s,” wrote Rizzoli in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“The advances in technology and rules over the last three seasons has changed and is still changing refereeing at the base level. Nonetheless, football is not an exact science and all we can do is try to limit the degree of interpretation allowed to the referee, rather than eliminate it completely.
“As for handball, it’s right to say the ‘maximum punishment’ of a penalty should also be consistent with the importance of the move. A handball that prevents a shot reaching the net or a cross to reach the middle of the penalty area must have a different relevance to an innocuous touch between arm and ball that is going away from the penalty area.
“The statistics, in fact, give us comfort on that score. Out of the 50 penalties awarded for handball this season, 30 were to punish the interception of a shot or cross, eight for intentional handball and the other 12 for contacts with the arm positioned either above the shoulder or in an unnatural position.
“The final category probably represents the increase of spot-kicks due to the change of rules. As of today, the rule continues evidently to punish voluntary fouls, but also has criteria for punishing even what is involuntary.
“I wish to again point out that players are not asked to defend with their arms behind their backs. It is, however, evident that in case of shot on goal or cross into the box, increasing the space occupied by the body in an unnatural fashion is going to represent a risk.”
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said certain handball penalties are “only awarded in Italy” and the same scenario is treated differently elsewhere in Europe.
“Every two weeks, the designators of the top five European Federations get together in a video call organised by UEFA to ensure we have the same vision and interpretation of these situations and how to use VAR,” replied Rizzoli.
“It’s curious to see how the Italian and Spanish statistics are very similar, but distant to the Anglo-Saxon nations. This denoted a substantial cultural influence in the Latin countries. For example, an Italian referee in a UEFA match tends to award eight to ten fewer fouls than in an Italian match.
“There is a problem. I am convinced we should face it together. There is already a meeting between referees, directors, coaches and captains that honestly I would’ve expected more from: some proposals, ideas to share together and a common philosophy in interpreting the rules.
“I understand it’s not easy, but more of a shared and relaxed confrontation would help the Italian football system to improve.”
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