Aleksander Ceferin, the president of Uefa, has admitted even he is baffled by what constitutes a handball as he called for video assistant referees to be given a reduced role in making decisions.
In an exclusive interview with Telegraph Sport, Ceferin also said he was similarly confused by the criteria used for offside calls and that he was completely opposed to the introduction of sin-bins into football.
Ceferin spoke out amid what have become almost weekly rows about the use of VAR in the game, which has seen numerous goals controversially disallowed and penalties awarded for handball.
Just last week, Howard Webb, the head of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, admitted Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty when Martin Odegaard handled the ball (see below) in their Premier League draw against Arsenal.
Confusion over what constitutes handball has been compounded by different interpretations of the law governing the offence, including among match officials.
“With handballs, I still don’t understand it,” Ceferin said. “When we had here 15 or 20 top coaches from Europe, we showed a situation of ‘handball’. Half said handball, half said no.”
Ceferin said the problem could be eased by limiting the role of a VAR simply to showing footage of an incident to the referee without getting involved in the decision-making process.
When it came to offside, Ceferin said he did not know “if your nose is long, you are offside, or your foot”, but that he was content with VAR’s current involvement in checking that and other factual decisions.
“I think that the instructions to the VARs should be clear that they don’t call for everything,” he said.
Ceferin had been opposed to the introduction of VAR when it first came into football, declaring it “too early”.
Admitting he had been “very critical” initially, he said: “There’s no way back anymore. VAR will stay and, in a way, it’s good that it stays. I have to admit that, with some situations, it helped a lot.”
Ceferin was speaking weeks after the International Football Association Board agreed to test sin-bins in the professional game as part of a revolutionary crackdown on dissent and cynical fouls.
‘We will not use sin-bins in Uefa competition’
The Slovenian mocked the prospect of the rugby-style measure being rolled out in the sport, saying, “It’s not football anymore”, and branded its use at grass-roots level a failure.
“We will not use them in Uefa competition,” Ceferin said. “Ifab has four European members. I don’t think they will do something against the interests of football. And, if they do, then we will deal with it later.”
That was in reference to the four UK associations, the chief executives of which hold half the votes on the Ifab board, and who actually spoke enthusiastically about sin-bins back in November.
“I would leave football as it is,” Ceferin said. “I think we don’t need a change of rules. We don’t need to be remembered as important persons that changed football. We don’t need to change football. We are passing through.”