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Authorities urged to give clarity on handballs

Graham Potter and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer call for rules to be refined

BRIGHTON boss Graham Potter has called for football’s handball rules to be refined, saying he feels the game is in danger of becoming unrecognisable.

Debatable spot-kicks were awarded against the Seagulls, Crystal Palace and Tottenham during a weekend of controversy in the Premier League.

Albion suffered an agonising 3-2 defeat to Manchester United after Neal Maupay was penalised for brushing the ball with an outstretched arm, allowing Bruno Fernandes to score the winner with the last kick of the game 10 minutes into added time, brought back after the final whistle had blown.

While Potter had no complaints about the decision against his team, he felt Palace defender Joel Ward and Spurs’s Eric Dier were harshly treated and is baffled by the current interpretation of the laws.

“We’ve been playing football since the mid-19th century and we’re still trying to get to terms with a rule of handball in the box,” Potter said.

“It can’t be that difficult to get the game so that people recognise it. And the sooner that it is, the better.

“We’ve seen incidents over the weekend where everybody can see it’s not anything deliberate, it’s completely innocuous and it’s strange as a football person to see.”

Each of the three penalties, which were awarded following VAR intervention, impacted the final results, with Palace losing 2-1 to Everton and Tottenham being held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle.

Eric Dier himself later insisted that “something has to change” after finding himself at the centre of the brewing row.

Dier told BBC’s Football Focus: “In my case, if you look at it as a whole, the foul leading up to the free-kick, the distance between me and Andy Carroll, the fact that I get pushed in my back which people are not really talking about.

“The push in my back is what makes my arm go up, that is a completely natural reaction and if someone does touch you like that, your normal reaction is to go like that.

“Even without the push, he is less than a metre behind me and I don’t really know what more you can do.

“You cannot jump without your hands, you cannot defend without using your arms to balance and move so it is what it is.”

Potter is the latest manager within the game to question the situation, joining the likes of Eagles boss Roy Hodgson and Magpies manager Steve Bruce as well as pundits Gary Lineker and Jamie Carragher.

He is preparing for a swift rematch against United, who return to the Amex Stadium in the last 16 of the EFL Cup tonight, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also joined the growing chorus that football is now a “different game.”

“You can discuss it all day long but we need some clarity on what’s a foul and what’s a penalty,” he said today.

“Because now it looks like you can chip the ball up into someone’s hand — like what happened to us against Palace [during a 3-1 United defeat on September 19] for example, and Victor got a penalty against him.

“And then the header against Tottenham, [Eric Dier] has got no idea the ball hits him … 

“We need to get that clarity. It’s a whole spectrum of things that aren’t normal.”

Both sides expected to make a raft of changes for tonight, with Solskjaer hinting that he’d take an approach similar to his 10 swaps to face Luton in the previous round.

Potter has changed his entire starting XI for victories over Portsmouth and Preston in the two previous rounds.


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