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Handball law, IFAB, reaction, Fulham vs Tottenham, Mario Lemina, Josh Maja

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Accidental handballs that lead to a teammate either scoring or having a chance to score a goal will no longer be considered an offence in football, the game’s law-making body said on Friday.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) made the announcement in a statement that also clarified the sport’s handball rules in other situations.

The ruling, which will be put in place from July, comes a day after Fulham’s Josh Maja had his effort harshly disallowed for a handball by teammate Mario Lemina in the 1-0 defeat to Tottenham.

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Scott Parker’s team sit in the Premier League relegation zone, three points from safety.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson previously said the ruling left him feeling “disillusioned” and declared it is “ruining football” while Steve Bruce said it was “total nonsense” despite benefiting from it.

IFAB, which is composed of members from the Football Associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as FIFA delegates, also said that referees were to “use their judgement” with regards to the position of a player’s arm or hands when the ball touches them before whistling for handball.

“As the interpretation of handball incidents has not always been consistent due to incorrect applications of the Law, the members confirmed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence,” the statement said.

One of the key controversies over handball in recent seasons has been over what constitutes an unnatural position for a player’s arm to be in when a ball strikes it.

“A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation.”

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The rulings came after IFAB’s annual general meeting, held by videoconference on Friday.

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino said that IFAB were also presented with a proposed change to the offside rule from Arsene Wenger.

Former Arsenal boss Wenger, now FIFA’s head of Global Football Development, suggested that the offside be tweaked so that players would be onside if “a part of the body with which the attacker can score” is further from the goal than the defender, said Infantino.

IFAB director David Elleray that “it is an interesting idea which will be carefully examined”.

“It is impossible to give a timetable, particularly because of the pandemic,” he said.

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