Former top-flight referee labels new handball law an ’embarrassment’

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Former top-flight referee George Courtney labelled the new handball laws an embarrassment but he expressed his sympathy towards Premier League match officials, who he felt were victims of the modification to the rules.

We have already seen the new handball rules have a massive impact on the Premier League, with 20 penalties being awarded within the first three match weeks.

Referee Peter Bankes’ decision to overturn his initial call and award Newcastle a penalty on Sunday, has provoked a strong reaction from fans, pundits and former players, with many at a loss to explain what Eric Dier could have done to avoid the situation (Sky Sports).

Courtney, who retired from the professional game in 1992, admitted that officials have now completely lost control.

He told The Independent: “I feel very sorry for the referees because for me they have lost totally their independence.

“When I refereed, I was independent, obviously adhering to the laws of the game and applying them in a very sensible and common-sense way, but that has gone out of the window now completely.

“IFAB (International Football Association Board) have got to do some instant thinking and I have no doubt they will be in touch with FIFA to try and remedy what is becoming an embarrassment in the game.”

However, the former referee insisted the officials cannot be blamed as they have no choice but to stick to the current interpretation of the handball laws.

When asked about Bankes’ controversial call in Tottenham’s 1-1 draw against the Magpies on Sunday, Courtney said: “I literally squirmed in my settee yesterday watching the situation with Dier, it was awful.

“I felt a bit sorry for the referee, but he has to stick to the current interpretations and if he doesn’t, I presume he will get bombed out.

“Where are our senior people in the game? Where is Mike Riley (general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited) for example. Is he making any comment or keeping his head under the parapet?”

Spurs Web Opinion

Based on the scathing reaction to the Dier incident, I do expect the FA to review the changes in the handball laws soon. It is just a shame that, just like the Champions League final, we have been victims before people have opened their eyes to the unfairness of the laws.

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