Why PSG’s penalty against Newcastle would NOT have been given in the Premier League – but UEFA rejected a change for the Champions League, resulting in 20% more spot-kicks
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UEFA rejected guidelines on the handball law from their board – including Zinedine Zidane and Paolo Maldini –  that would have disallowed PSG penalty that cost Newcastle a famous win.

The Magpies were up 1-0 minutes from the end of added time before their Parisian hosts were given the chance to level from the spot after Tino Livramento was deemed to have handled the ball in the PSG penalty area. 

A lengthy VAR review showed the ball first striking the defender’s chest before ricocheting off his elbow, but after making the journey to the monitor referee Szymon Marciniak confirmed the penalty that was duly dispatched by Kylian Mbappe

UEFA’s specific rulings around the handball law mean that although the result was widely derided by commentators and pundits alike, Marciniak’s decision – whilst controversial – was influenced by stricter European regulations. 

But as per Telegraph Sport, a source with knowledge of Premier League officiating shared that the penalty would never have stood in England due to the positioning of the former Chelsea player’s arm. 

PSG were awarded an injury time penalty after the ball struck Tino Livramento on the elbow

PSG were awarded an injury time penalty after the ball struck Tino Livramento on the elbow

Referee Szymon Marciniak - who officiated the World Cup final in Qatar last year - awarded the penalty in light of stricter UEFA guidelines around officiating the handball law

Referee Szymon Marciniak – who officiated the World Cup final in Qatar last year – awarded the penalty in light of stricter UEFA guidelines around officiating the handball law

PSG captain Kylian Mbappe stepped up to the spot and sent home the extremely late equaliser

PSG captain Kylian Mbappe stepped up to the spot and sent home the extremely late equaliser

Zinedine Zidane is a member of UEFA's Football Board, who in April advised clarification over the organisation's interpretation of the handball law

Zinedine Zidane is a member of UEFA’s Football Board, who in April advised clarification over the organisation’s interpretation of the handball law

‘Arm positioning is key – it’s natural. Off the chest and onto the elbow,’ the source described. ‘Not above the head or unexplainable by body position.’

Three considerations for officiating the handball law 

  • Whether it is deliberate action by the player;
  • The proximity of the player from the ball and the speed of the contact;
  • If the arm or hand is in an ‘unnatural’ position.

Whilst deflection doesn’t mean that penalties won’t be given, the decision made by officials in the Premier League will come down to the position of the arm, in a nod to the law’s ban on making the body ‘unnaturally bigger’. 

At UEFA’s Football Board’s inaugural meeting at the organisation’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland in April, a more lenient position on officiating the handball rule akin to the guidelines followed by the Premier League was floated. 

The group – which features sporting luminaries including Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Capello, and Petr Cech – recommended ‘unifying’ the approach after English officials dropped stricter measures shortly after their introduction in 2020 after a wave of complaints from players and managers. 

Their guidance read: ‘UEFA should clarify that no handball offence should be called on a player if the ball is previously deflected from his own body and, in particular, when the ball does not go towards the goal’. 

But according former top official Keith Hackett speaking to Telegraph Sport, Europe’s governing body opted against modifying their position in light of the regulations. 

As per ESPN, UEFA’s flagship competition has seen the highest number of handball penalties awarded across Europe’s top-flight leagues by a staggering margin. 

Newcastle were mere minutes from a famous win in Paris after thumping the Ligue 1 champions at St James' Park

Newcastle were mere minutes from a famous win in Paris after thumping the Ligue 1 champions at St James’ Park

Since the start of the 2022/23 campaign, 46 were awarded in 197 games – or 0.234 per game, a frequency dwarfing the league with the next greatest number, LaLiga. 

The Spanish first division saw 57 in 518 games, equating to 0.110 per game, with the Bundesliga third with 0.099 handball penalties per game (41 handed out across 414 matches). 

The Premier League rank the lowest of the top-five leagues, with just 31 handball penalties awarded in 500 fixtures, equating to 0.062 per game, that’s 17 per cent lower than the Champions League.  

Following the decision to award PSG a penalty – and the ensuing late equaliser at Parc des Princes – the backlash from figures across the game was swift and uproarious. 

Newcastle icon Alan Shearer took to social media to call the decision ‘a load of s***’, whilst his Match of the Day host Gary Lineker posted: ‘How on earth is that a penalty for PSG. Ludicrous.’

TNT co-commentator Ally McCoist claimed ‘we may as will give up the game’ as the Rangers legend expressed frustration at the awarding of the penalty.

McCoist insisted that the decision was ‘bordering on robbery’ for Eddie Howe’s side, and added: ‘That’s a shambles. Honestly, it is not on.’

Howe added to the debate by claiming that he thought the decision was ‘poor‘ after the final whistle.

The Premier League awards the fewest handball penalties as a per-game statistic (pictured: Premier League official Michael Oliver)

The Premier League awards the fewest handball penalties as a per-game statistic (pictured: Premier League official Michael Oliver)

Yes, I do. In my opinion, it wasn’t the right decision,’ the Newcastle head coach told reporters. 

‘What you don’t take into account with those replays is how quick the ball goes. It hits his chest first and comes up and hits his hand. If it hits his hand first, it’s still not a penalty, because he’s so close. But you can make more of a case.

‘It’s not a penalty when it hits his chest first and then hits his hand, which is low. His hand is not in an unnatural position. He is running and they are in a running motion. I think it’s a poor decision and it’s hugely frustrating for us, because you know how little time is left.

‘I thought the referee was having a good game up until this moment,’ Howe added. ‘He had been strong. The pressure put on the referee by the crowd was extreme.’

MARK CLATTENBURG: Newcastle are right to feel robbed by PSG’s late penalty

Newcastle have every right to feel robbed. Kylian Mbappe should never have been gifted the chance to equalise from the penalty spot in the eight minute of stoppage time.

Szymon Marciniak refereed the 2022 World Cup final, and Tomasz Kwiatkowski was his VAR. They are an experienced pairing and well respected, but this has to go down as one almighty error on their part.

All we ask is that our referees and VARs are as strong as they are consistent in their decision-making.

Earlier in this Champions League clash, we saw the ball strike Lewis Miley on the thigh and then bounce on to an arm which was slightly away from his body.

VAR Tomas Kwiatkowski opted against sending Marciniak to review a possible handball by Lewis Miley (right) earlier in the tie

VAR Tomas Kwiatkowski opted against sending Marciniak to review a possible handball by Lewis Miley (right) earlier in the tie

Kwiatkowski decided against sending Marciniak to his monitor for a review.

But then deep into stoppage time, we see an almost identical incident. The ball ricochets off Tino Livramento’s chest and on to his elbow and this time, Kwiatkowski recommends a review by Marciniak.

While at his monitor, Marciniak is convinced that Livramento’s arm is outstretched because of the specific angle that the VAR is showing him.

However, the angle from behind the goal, which we all saw on television but the VAR did not show to Marciniak, clearly proves this was not the case.

Livramento did not make his body bigger. His arm was in a natural position for the movement he was making. He had no time to react to the deflection.

This penalty went against all UEFA guidance, and Newcastle paid the price.

The decision was widely derided by critics and pundits, but Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe stressed that the crowd had put 'extreme pressure' on Marciniak

The decision was widely derided by critics and pundits, but Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe stressed that the crowd had put ‘extreme pressure’ on Marciniak

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