Former PL referee Dermot Gallagher gives verdict on Livramento handball v PSG

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher: “The fact the VAR has been stood down speaks volumes. It’s just not a penalty, is it? If that was given in the Premier League, the media would be on it for a month. I really don’t know what he’s seen to change his mind on the screen.”

Dermot Gallagher believes Polish referee Szymon Marciniak should have been tougher on VAR after the controversial stoppage-time penalty awarded against Newcastle in the Champions League on Tuesday for handball by Tino Livramento.

Newcastle appeared to be on course for a famous 1-0 win over PSG at the Parc des Princes until match official Marciniak awarded a spot-kick against Livramento following a VAR review, allowing Kylia Mbappe to equalize in the eighth and final minute of additional time.

Former Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood called the judgment “disgusting” on Soccer Special, while Newcastle manager Eddie Howe suggested referee Marciniak should have been stronger in defying VAR Tomasz Kwiatkowski’s recommendation.

Kwiatkowski was scheduled to be the VAR in Wednesday’s Champions League match between Real Sociedad and Salzburg, but has now been replaced, according to Sky Sports News.

Former Premier League referee Gallagher spoke to Sky Sports News about yet another contentious VAR ruling in A Ref Watch special!

‘It’s just not a penalty, is it?!’

The fact that the VAR was removed this morning speaks volumes, in my opinion.

Isn’t it just not a penalty? If that happened in the Premier League, it would be covered for a month.
It was amazing. And the reason it was fantastic is that this guy is unquestionably a great referee. If you watch the game, you’ll notice that he was immaculate for 96, 97 minutes.

Someone else then informed him to something, which he hasn’t given on-field – quite correctly. I’m not sure what he saw on the television to change his mind.

‘Ref should’ve been strong against VAR’

I was convinced he’d say no, walk away, and stick to his guns as I watched.

The important issue is when you’re sent to the screen and the VAR believes you’ve made a clear and evident error. That must have been on your mind – did I miss something?

But, as you approach the screen, keep in mind that you are the one making the decision, and you have access to all possibilities.

He had the option of saying no, in my opinion. He’s going over his list of possibilities – is it a purposeful handball? Definitely not. Has it traveled a short distance at high speed? Without a doubt, sure. Is his arm in an awkward position? No way, because he’s in a running motion.

But the most important question is, has it left his body? It strikes his chest before his elbow, and the gap between them is practically touching. He’s not going to get out of the way.

‘It should’ve been simple! Deflection means no penalty’

It’s straightforward! That four-step checklist? First step, no. Second, nope. Third, nada. Fourth, absolutely not.

Clearly, it’s a move to deflect the blame away, so it couldn’t possibly be handball. I understand it needs to meet one of those criteria to count as a penalty, but it doesn’t meet any. Each and every criterion is a definite no-go.

Consider Miley’s handball, which didn’t lead to a penalty. The only distinction was the result. It bounced off his thigh, popped up—a scenario commonly seen in Premier League appeals where it’s observed to come off a player’s thigh and dismissed.

Recall the famous incident at Newcastle involving Arsenal, where the referee consulted VAR and altered his decision after spotting the deflection, initially missed at real-time speed.

Last night, the referee saw it in real-time, deemed it non-penalty-worthy, and rightfully continued the game.

Are rules applied differently in PL to CL?

SSN handball graphic


You don’t get to choose and select the rules of the game. They exist, and then there are the considerations, for lack of a better term, these options.

These are your guidelines. Referees don’t have time to practice that on the field, so it becomes natural. You can see it in their heads, whether it’s a penalty or not.

Newcastle has requested UEFA’s remarks, but I’m not sure if it will be made public. They’ll undoubtedly want an explanation.

‘Handball should be easiest law’

It’s extremely strange; I talk to Rob [Wotton] all the time and tell him that in the handball directives, it says this is the easiest law to apply.

But it’s the one we’ve discussed the most this season. Alan Wiley (former Premier League referee) has an excellent suggestion for refereeing. Keep things safe and simple, he urges.

That’s the problem. Don’t make things too complicated, and it will take care of itself.

What is the handball law?

The International Football Association Board (IFAB), which establishes world football’s laws, has laid down guidelines on what constitutes and does not constitute a handball offence – however leagues have their own specific interpretations, which you can read below.

In general, the top boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit for determining handball offenses. Not every contact between a player’s hand/arm and the ball constitutes an offense.

Are UEFA’s rules different from individual leagues?

Every league, competition and governing body has its own guidelines on how to interpret the laws of the game and ahead of the 2023/24 season, UEFA moved to try and limit the giving of handball offences in regards to deflections, as well as the punishment for yellow and red cards shown for handball.

UEFA’s guidelines say “no handball offence should be called on a player if the ball is previously deflected from his own body, and, in particular, when the ball does not go towards the goal.” However, this was only a recommendation from the UEFA Football Board, which includes coaches and former players like England boss Gareth Southgate, former England defender Rio Ferdinand and ex-Wales star Gareth Bale, and was never formally ratified.

The guidelines also say “not every handball should automatically lead to a caution after every shot at goal, as anticipated by the current guidelines.”

It is an offence if a player:

  • deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball
  • touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. 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. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalised
  • scores in the opponents’ goal: Directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper or immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental

‘Sin-bins should be a deterrent rather than punishment’

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher:

“Sin-bins have already been running for four years in local leagues – the village I live in, their team operates to those guidelines. It’s reduced dissent amazingly.

“Players would accept a yellow card for mouthing off to the referee but their teammates won’t accept being down to 10 men for 10 minutes – it makes a massive impact to them.

“It’s a little bit different in local parks but how do you keep a professional player warm and up to match speed for that 10 minutes?

“I would like to see this as a deterrent rather than a punishment.”


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.