Referees will now consider the intention of defenders as well as the degree and consequence of contact when considering if a penalty should be awarded

The Premier League hopes to discourage players exaggerating contact for penalties and cut out controversial offside calls by changing rules ahead of the new season.

Referees and VAR officials are being told to consider how much contact has been made by a defender, the consequences of it and also the intention.

As a result, players will not need to go down in the box in order to be given a spot kick and referees will cease stopping the game for “trivial offences”.

What has been said?

The aim of the new criteria is to encourage a more “free-flowing game”, according to Mike Riley, who is the Premier League’s head of refereeing. 

“Fundamentally, we want the approach to be one that best allows players to go out and express themselves, and allows the Premier League to flow,” Riley said.

“That means that the referee team – both referees and VAR – don’t intervene for trivial offences. It’s really going: ‘Let’s create a free-flowing game, where the threshold for intervention both for referees and VAR is slightly higher than it was last season’.”

He added: “The clear message through the survey was football is about contact. So, the principles we’ve established are referees should look for contact, and establish clear contact, then ask themselves the does question: ‘Does that contact have a consequence?’. And then ask themselves the question: ‘Has the player used that contact to actually try and win a penalty?’

“So it’s not sufficient just to say: ‘Yes, there’s contact’. I think, partly, we got into that frame of mind by the forensic analysis that went on to VAR. So, contact on its own is only part of what the referee should look for.

“Consider consequence, consider motivation of player as well. If you’ve got clear contact that has a consequence, then that’s what you got to penalise. If you’ve any doubt in those elements you’re less likely to be penalised.

“We made a mistake again last season where there was clear contact, a player stayed on his feet, went wide, lost possession. We should go back and give him a penalty. I think had we done so that would have reassured players, that’s our approach.

“I think it moves the dial back towards where we probably were in a pre-VAR world.”

What about the offside rule?

The new rules will also lead to fewer lengthy VAR reviews to determine offsides in the build up to a goal.

The use of VAR in cases where a player may be marginally offside has proved controversial, but the new approach hopes to make it easier for referees.

Officials will now use a thicker line than before and if the one used to show the attacker’s position merges into the line indicating the defender, it will be deemed onside.

“We’ve now effectively reintroduced the benefit of doubt to the attacking player,” Riley added.

“So, where you have a really close offside situation, we carry on following the same process that we did last year with VAR. So you’ll apply the one-pixel lines, you’ll place the attacking line and the defending line.

“You’ll then put on the thicker broadcast lines and, where they overlap, those situations will now be deemed as onside. So effectively what we give back to the game is 20 goals that were disallowed last season, by using quite forensic scrutiny. So it’s the toenails, the noses…. They might have been offside last year, next season they’re on.”

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