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New handball law poses ‘big problem’, says Neville

Ellen White had a goal disallowed for handball in England Women’s loss to Sweden.

Ellen White appeals to referee Anastasia Pustovoytova after her goal against Sweden was ruled out for handball (John Walton/PA).
Ellen White appeals to referee Anastasia Pustovoytova after her goal against Sweden was ruled out for handball (John Walton/PA).

England boss Phil Neville feels the new handball law has created a “minefield”.

Ellen White had a goal disallowed for handball following a VAR review as the Lionesses were beaten 2-1 by Sweden in Saturday’s Women’s World Cup third-place play-off in Nice.

White was judged to have been guilty of the infringement as she jostled with Linda Sembrant before slotting in, referee Anastasia Pustovoytova making the decision after watching footage back pitchside.

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Phil Neville guided England to a fourth-place finish in France (Richard Sellers/PA).

The handball law has been adjusted this year, with the International Football Association Board saying players are to be penalised in situations, “even if accidental”, when the ball touches a “hand/arm that has made their body unnaturally bigger”.

That was part of rule changes that came into force on June 1, just ahead of the tournament in France, the first Women’s World Cup to have VAR in use.

England were awarded a penalty via a VAR check in their opener, the 2-1 win against Scotland, after Fran Kirby’s cross struck Nicola Docherty on the arm.

When asked about VAR, Neville said: “Handball I think is the big problem.

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Ellen White scores against Sweden before the effort is ruled out (John Walton/PA).

“It wouldn’t surprise me if FIFA probably have a look after this World Cup and change or tweak the wording. They’ve obviously seen what’s going on at this World Cup.

“I think a prime example is the penalty we got against Scotland and the goal disallowed (against Sweden).

“There’s a grey area between what is unnatural, silhouette, and even I don’t understand it to be honest with you – I say I don’t understand it, it’s just how can we get that consistency?

“I think the referees have been really good in the tournament and they’ve just abided by the rules that have been set. There’s no criticism of the any referee.”

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Ellen White had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR against the United States (Richard Sellers/PA).

In England’s 2-1 semi-final loss to the United States, White had a goal ruled out on a marginal offside call after VAR was consulted.

Neville said: “The rules were explained and they’ve been implemented to the absolute law.

“So when Ellen’s goal against the USA was disallowed, whether it’s a toe, a foot, an arm, it was offside. You can’t argue, you can’t speak to the referee afterwards and say, ‘That wasn’t offside’, because it was offside. It takes away all that, all the controversy.

“I just thought (on Saturday) that the handball one…What is handball? It didn’t look like a handball because ultimately the Swedish defender came and clashed in and the ball was there, could you see whether she touched it?

“I think the handball is an impossible one for someone that probably is watching to actually give. I feel sorry for them.

“That was probably the rule that I thought, ‘This is going to be a minefield’, and it will continue to be so.”

He added: “They’ve implemented every rule they discussed with us.

“I just feel as if the handball still needs probably work because the Scotland goal, the defender is probably on a beach somewhere on holiday right now thinking, ‘That was never a handball’, and Ellen is thinking, ‘That’s never a handball, and that’s my Golden Boot’. And it just seems cruel.”

If it had stood, White’s effort would have been her seventh goal in the tournament – a tally that would have seen her end up as its top scorer.

PA

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