There was further VAR drama last night when a penalty was awarded after the half time whistle had been blown and the players had already left the pitch.

During Mainz’s Bundesliga win over relegation rivals Freiburg on Monday, referee Guido Winkmann called both sides back from the dressing room after consulting the VAR system and penalising Freiburg for handball.

External Link | Mainz’s 05 2 SC Freiburg 0 (Click to view incident)

Mainz midfielder Pablo de Blasis scored the penalty to put the hosts 1-0 up.

They initially had the penalty appeal turned down after right-back Daniel Brosinski’s cross deflected off Freiburg centre-back Marc-Oliver Kempf’s hand and was saved by keeper Alexander Schwolow.

As the players departed the pitch, Winkmann was told to consult VAR and ran over to the other side of the pitch to watch the replay on a monitor.

Winkmann overturned the decision and awarded the hosts a penalty before having to recall the entire Freiburg side and the handful of Mainz players who had left the pitch.

Following a delay of over six minutes De Blasis scored the penalty and Winkmann blew again for half-time. To buy your Premier League, FA Cup Final and European tickets, head over to Football Ticket Pad.

Here at You Are The Ref we have a difference in opinion, as often, football can divide even the experts. Take a look at both the view of former Premier League and FIFA referee Mark Halsey’s opinion against ex FIFA AR and former VAR Manager for the MLS Paul Rejer.

Paul Rejer

Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) clearly states that a direct free kick should be awarded to the opposing team if, whilst the ball is in play, a player handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).

A penalty kick is awarded if a defending team player deliberately handles the ball inside his own penalty area (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).

Handball is one of the simplest of all the Laws of the Game, yet the difficulty for referees in a match situation is determining whether a handball is a deliberate act.  This is where the complexity is involved in making the judgement!

The handball offence is so very simple, yet it is universally, and frustratingly for referees, misunderstood by players, managers, sports commentators, journalists and spectators alike.

Determining what a deliberate act of handball is often causes the most problems and provides the referee with one of their hardest challenges. It is also important to stress that not every penalised deliberate handball is punishable by a yellow or red card. A direct free kick or penalty kick may be sufficient punishment.

The law states:

Handling the ball

Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.

The following must be considered:

– the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)

– the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)

– the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence

In practical terms deciding whether a handball is deliberate or not, referees consider the following four criteria:

1. The proximity of the offending player to the ball when the ball is struck. The closer the player is to the ball when it is played, the less time he has to react, and move his arm / hand  either out of the way or even towards the ball.  A ball struck from close range on to the arm or hand of an opposing player is less likely to be considered a deliberate act when compared to a ball struck from distance where the defending player has more opportunity to move his hand / arm out of the way of the ball.

2. The movement of the hand or arm towards the ball or away from the ball to prevent a handball offence occurring.

3. Whether the defending player’s hands or arms are in the expected position at the time the ball is played, and whether the player is merely protecting himself or is unable to move his arm / hand out of the way when the ball is struck.

4. Whether the player uses his arms or hands to make himself bigger in order to prevent the ball from going past him. Whilst considering the law considerations state the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence, if it is a deliberate act which may give the offending player an unfair advantage, this will be deemed a deliberate handball by the referee.

‘Ball to hand’ is the well-known phrase used by referees to describe an accidental (or non-deliberate) ‘handball’. It is usually obvious to referees when a player purposely moves his hand or arm towards the ball with the intention of gaining an unfair advantage over his opponents. Deliberately handling the ball implies full consciousness of the nature of one’s actions and its consequences.

Therefore when we come to examine this particular handball decision, when we look at the Law considerations and practical criteria, in my opinion:

  • the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand) –There is clear movement towards the ball after the ball is played
  • the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball) – There is enough distance between the opponent and the ball to avoid the handball
  • the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence – Not necessarily but in this case his arm is not in an expected position and is put there deliberately to gain an unfair advantage

I therefore conclude that in my opinion this is deliberate handball and whilst the VAR procedure could have been handled a lot better, the actual outcome was correct.

Mark Halsey

For me I don’t think it’s clear and obvious, the Freiburg defender is in a natural position within close proximity. When the shot comes in at pace, he’s trying to get his arm out of the way and it just slightly deflects off him and the keeper makes a great save, and it falls back into the six yard box and the attacking team hasn’t been disadvantaged

If he was meaning to handle the ball surely his arm will have been strong enough to send the ball out for a corner or head back in the direction of the AR. There’s also no input from the AR who would have a clear view of it. So both the referee and AR feel there is no deliberate act.

So why does the VAR get involved?

That said, Bibiana Steinhaus does intervene and in law you can extend play for the taking of the penalty so there’s no problem at all bringing the players back on to pitch. The referee should have told The problem I have is that he’s chosen to give the penalty, okay it can be subjective, some will say it is, some will say it’s not. However that is not a clear and obvious error so I ask again why has the VAR got involved?

Maybe the referee felt pressure because the VAR has told him there was an infringement leading up to the goalkeepers save? What he should have done, is see that the players more or less have left the pitch and tell the VAR that your’e not interested, the players are down the tunnel, and to forget it.

But he’s followed protocol, had a look at the monitor and given the penalty but he should have been strong and insisted that it’s not a penalty and remember that the VAR is not there to re-referee games.

The penalty is not the issue, it’s the VAR’s involvement. Had he not given the penalty, all we’d have been talking about was the the VAR involvement and praising the match officials for not giving the penalty.

Who do you agree with? Vote in the poll below!

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  1. I watched the game. At the time I thought it was a penalty and I still think so, as the defender dips his left shoulder with arm extended toward the ball. The VAR process was laughable though and embodied everything we worried about when trials started. VAR had enough time to get the referee to look at the incident before players began leaving the field in my opinion and all this furore would have been avoided. It was the correct decision but my oh my, didn’t it look ridiculous?


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