Keith Hackett brands offside and handball laws ‘abject nonsense’

Former referees’ chief Keith Hackett believes the offside and handball laws require “major surgery” and slow-motion VAR replays should be banned to avoid more baffling decisions.

A string of incidents over the weekend started with Leeds striker Patrick Bamford having a goal ruled out for offside for pointing where he wanted the ball played and ended with contentious handball awards against Wolves and Liverpool.

The Bamford ruling was made on the basis the upper part of his arm was beyond the last defender – the so-called ‘T-shirt sleeve’ interpretation referring to the part of the limb from which a goal can be scored – although even the drawing of virtual lines was barely conclusive.

“Really poor for football. VAR is trying to find excuses for its use,” former referee and ex-head of Professional Game Match Officials Limited Hackett told the PA news agency.

“If you hold your arm out pointing there is a lot of arm and the shoulder hardly becomes a scoring point unless it is facing the ball and deflects off it.

“Ultimately it is a very bad decision however you look at it. If anyone who plays, watches, owns a club or whatever agrees the Bamford goal is the right decision they should give up football.

“A Leeds fan emailed me to say, ‘What do you think?’ and I emailed back and said, ‘It is not offside, it should be a goal’.

“He came back later in the day and said, ‘I switched it off and missed the Leeds goal I was so unhappy with the decision’.

The 'T-shirt sleeve' principle is being applied for handball this season
The 'T-shirt sleeve' principle is being applied for handball this season

“The offside law and handball law both require major surgery.

“What David Elleray, technical director of IFAB (the International Football Association Board, the body that determines the laws of the game), came up with is abject nonsense and no-one is buying into it.”

The handball ruling came under scrutiny after Wolves’ Max Kilman and Liverpool’s Joe Gomez were both struck on the arm at close range as they ran back towards their own goal.

Premier League amended guidance issued after the start of the season referenced the “expected arm position”, pointed out that “arms may be outside the player’s body and may not be penalised” and made mention of “where is is clear the player does not have time to react”.

At least two of those points, if not all three, could be applied in the cases of Kilman and Gomez, yet referees Anthony Taylor and Craig Pawson both decided to award penalties after reviewing slow-motion video footage on the pitchside monitor.

“What we have here is the initial nonsense to penalise an accidental handball,” added Hackett.

“In the Liverpool case there was a stronger argument to give it, but I am still unhappy they are not taking into account the hand and arm movements of a player who is running.

“They (referees) start looking at it on the screen in slow-mo and the incident looks worse, as it always does.

Referee Anthony Taylor made his penalty decision after watching slow-motion replays
Referee Anthony Taylor made his penalty decision after watching slow-motion replays

“This weekend Anthony Taylor, one our best referees, looks at that incident in slow motion and that is not right, totally unfair, and should not not be allowed.

“I think with real time it would have shown him the speed at which the ball was kicked, the distance travelled and the inability to move out of the way.

“That is a process I’m not happy with and I don’t think it helps football.”