The Premier League will look to crack down on soft penalties in the coming season, while attackers should benefit from the removal of so-called ‘toenails’ offside, the PA news agency reports.
Chief Referee Mike Riley said the bar for awarding fouls and kicks for lower body contact will be raised, following feedback from players, coaches and general managers gathered in a March poll.
Field officials and VARs will be asked to make clear contact, if this has any consequence and if an attacking player has tried to use that contact to earn a penalty.
It is understood that challenges such as England’s Raheem Sterling in Euro 2020 matches against Scotland and Denmark, for example, would not be given as part of the Premier League approach, and that a Premier League VAR would have stepped in to cancel the shot on goal. England were rewarded in the semi-final against Denmark.
“It’s not enough to say ‘yes there has been contact’,” said Riley, managing director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).
“The contact itself is only part of what referees should be looking for. If you have clear contact that has a consequence, then this is what you should penalize.
While the change in emphasis should mean that attackers who initiate or exaggerate contact will not be rewarded, referees will be careful to impose penalties when there is clear and meaningful contact but players remain standing.
“It should always be, otherwise the balance is uneven,” said Riley.
Citing the example of Manchester City’s Phil Foden who remains standing despite clear contact from Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, Riley said: “We made a mistake. There was clear contact and the player stayed on his feet, walked past and lost the ball.
“We should have gone back and given the penalty. I think if we had, it would have reassured the players, and that’s our approach (this season).
The likely result of this change will be a decrease in the number of penalties awarded. There were 125 last season, 92 in 2019-20, 103 in 2018-19 and 80 in 2017-18.
The marginal offside assessment will also change next season, Riley said.
One pixel lines will still be used in the training process, but they will no longer be broadcast. Instead, the thicker final scatter lines will be used, and when those thicker lines drawn for the attacker and defender overlap, the attacker will be considered in play.
“What we are actually giving back to the game are 20 goals that were allegedly denied last season using a fairly forensic examination,” he said.
“So it’s the toenails, the noses being given offside. They might have been offside last season, they won’t be next season.
Indeed, there will have to be daylight between the lines for an offside to be awarded.
It is understood that the Premier League expects it to be possible to try the semi-automatic offside technology during the 2022-2023 season. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has previously expressed hope that the technology can be used at the 2022 World Cup in the middle of this season.
The technology provides a response in four to five seconds, compared to the average Premier League human control of 34 seconds.
Fan commentary has also been sought after by the Premier League, with many fans disappointed with aspects of VAR.
It is understood that the league is considering a number of options to make the VAR process more transparent, ranging from how-to videos on the league’s social media to a representative of PGMOL appearing in programs such as Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
VAR’s light approach seen at the Euro has garnered much praise, but it is expected that there will be a higher level of intervention than seen at the summer tournament.
However, Riley says there will be a concerted effort to keep the game running smoothly.
“The Euros were really good in a lot of ways, there was a greater acceptance of non-stepping referees for small contacts and that kept the game going,” he said.
“One of the encouraging things is that we are going into next season with people who expect this threshold to be higher than last year.”
Asked if fans should expect the Premier League to be refereed like the Euro, Riley added: “Tournament football is different from domestic football. We are refereeing in the best way that suits the Premier League. But raising the bar for intervention is a good thing, and ensuring that VARs only intervene where we have clear and obvious evidence. ”