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Question Number: 35305

Mechanics 12/30/2023

Mark of London , Uk asks...

A player punches the ball out and the Ref doesn’t see it so gives a goal kick.

VAR tells the Ref he’s reviewing the handball.VAR says the defending players hand was in a natural position (for the record the players hand reaches out to slap the ball out of the way.

What should the decision be ? Goal kick,corner or Ref asked to review it.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Mark,

VAR will only recommend the referee review the pitch-side monitor if VAR believes a clear and obvious error has occurred. I like to think of that as meaning that almost no referee would want to stick with the original decision - that it should essentially be beyond debate that the original decision was incorrect. This means that VAR isn't intervening on decisions that are wrong, but more debatable. Essentially, they're looking at ones that are inarguably wrong.

For factual matters like offside position, the onfield ref doesn't need to check the monitor - and 'clear and obvious' doesn't apply there, as it's an 'is or isn't' decision. Now, in practice I know it often doesn't quite work that way (and even whether something is clearly and obviously an error is often debate - heck, it's surprising how often even referees can debate over what some would claim is a stonewall penalty!).

Those words are key - it may be that the VAR saw it, thought it was an error but a debatable one so not one for the VAR to intervene on.

While the referee themselves can initiate a pitch-side review, I've never actually seen this happen and in this situation the referee is going off the word of the VAR. VAR says they don't believe a clear and obvious error has occurred, so why would the referee then go an request a review anyway?

So,whether or not the decision is correct, I'd expect the restart to be a goal kick or corner kick, whatever the referee initially signalled (note that if the ref called a goal kick but it should be a corner kick, the VAR can't recommend that be changed)

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Mark,
VAR is there as another tool.
A multi angled overview eye in the sky, who ONLY suggests the CR think carefully on a decision when something is OBVIOUSLY, in their opinion, out of whack.

Neutral fair ARs give advice, VAR is no different in that regard but are purposefully tasked to ONLY intervene with credible info that otherwise might be withheld or went unseen or confirm a yes it was, no it was not offside positional dilemma. When a CR receives a communication & recommendation to review by VAR, it is likely UNWISE to discount, simply because THEIR only purpose is to ASSIST you the referee to get the call CORRECT! It is not forcing you to change your mind or upset you.

In the case you mention if a referee awards a goal kick or a corner off a handling that the VAR has deemed it as not deliberate I fail to see why anything is even being debated? Obviously no handling call was made by the referee on the pitch who also saw no infraction. . Even if you were correct and the defender did slap at it deliberately, kind of funny the CR ,AR or VAR has no definitive opinion other than nothing there but a last touch issue?

Happy New Year!

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Mark,
I'm a little curious as to how you know all the intimate details of the conversations between the referee and the VAR. The contents of these conversations are almost never released to the public. The incident a little while ago where the VAR transcript was released after an incorrect decision in a game involving Liverpool and Tottenham was, as far as I'm aware, the first time this has ever happened.

So for all we know, perhaps the referee did see the incident and decided that it was not a handling offence. As for the VAR saying that the hand was in a natural position I would say that is also unlikely. It is not part of the VAR protocol for the VAR to make a definitive call on a subjective decision like that.

Unless it is a factual matter such as offside or the physical position of an offence (inside or outside the penalty area) the VAR normally only makes a recommendation to the referee that they conduct an on-field review, for any incident involving a judgement call. However they only do this if they believe that a clear and obvious error has been made. In this instance, based on fact that there was no on-field of view we can only conclude that the VAR, after checking the incident decided that, even if there was contact between hand and ball, there was no clear and obvious error and that an on-field view was not required.

So once the VAR check was over and it was decided that no on-field review was required then the correct decision is the goal kick or corner kick resulting from the ball going out of play.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mark
Not sure if you saw the incident in the weekends Celtic v Rangers game when an incident somewhat like this happened.
To me it looked like the Celtic defender slapped the ball away with his hand from the Rangers opponent on the goal line.
See 2.47 in this video
The incident was reviewed by VAR as the referee can be clearly seen holding up play. There is now a suggestion that the Rangers player was in an offside position before the incident.
Now we know VAR can not decide on corner kicks / goal kicks so I suspect the original onfield decision could not be changed with the exception of offside. VAR cannot intervene on a corner kick call.
Had a penalty kick been awarded it may have been overturned by an offside call?
In your scenario if the referee did not give handling and VAR determined that the referee did not make a clear and obvious error then the on field decision does not change. If there is doubt it requires an onfield review by the referee at the monitor.

Now we know that handling is now the most difficult decision for referees to make including VAR reviews.
The recent penalty award in the Everton v Man City game springs to mind. The referee did not give it in real time yet an onfield review by the referee as advised by VAR changed the no decision to a penalty kick.
The certain part is that the ball hit the Everton’s player arm yet did it meet the conditions for it to be called deliberate? That can be debated all day long
Such decisions are now being called the modern day penalty.
One such condition is whether 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
It is why we now have these arms behind the back positions. Unseen years ago yet now common place in every game.
Roll back the clock to the Europa Cup final and the non award of the penalty to Roma. The player had his arm at his side in a natural position yet could the player jave avoided the ball hitting his arm. It was not given

For what it is worth I think that it both were not deliberate in the true sense of moving the hand to the ball. Yet in the modern game they are being called some harshly and some not called.
If I had a say I would say that only movement of the hand / arm to the ball should be called and those positional ones ignored.

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