Newcastle handball: VAR who reviewed controversial handball penalty for PSG stood down from Wednesday's games

November 29, 2023

The VAR who reviewed the penalty awarded to PSG against Newcastle for a controversial handball has been stood down from his game on Wednesday, Sky Sports News understands.

Tomasz Kwiatkowski asked referee Szymon Marciniak to go to the screen after the review which looked into a potential handball by Tino Livramento - the referee did not give the penalty on-field, but reversed the decision after looking at the incident on the screen.

Kwiatkowski was due to be the VAR in Wednesday's Champions League game between Real Sociedad and Salzburg but has now been replaced.

Newcastle looked to be heading for a famous 1-0 win at the Parc des Princes until the penalty was awarded against Tino Livramento, allowing Kylian Mbappe to level in the eighth and final minute of added time.

Speaking on Soccer Special, former Spurs manager Tim Sherwood labelled the decision "disgusting" while Newcastle boss Eddie Howe said referee Marciniak should have been stronger to disregard Kwiatkowski's advice.

Howe said in a television interview the referee had been placed under "extreme" pressure by the PSG players, and later labelled a decision which cost his side two precious points "poor" in his post-match press conference.

Had Newcastle won in the French capital they would have had their Champions League destiny in their own hands, but now must beat AC Milan in their final group game and hope Dortmund get at least a point against PSG to progress to the knockout stages.

Gallagher: It's just not a penalty, is it?

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher on Sky Sports News:

"I think the fact the VAR has been stood down speaks volumes. It's just not a penalty, is it? If that was given in the Premier League, the media would be on it for a month.

"It was incredible. And why it was incredible is that this guy is a top referee, there's no doubt about that. If you watch the game, he was faultless for 96, 97 minutes.

"He's then been alerted to something by someone else, which he hasn't given on-field - quite rightly. I really don't know what he's seen to change his mind on the screen.

"When I was watching it, I was quite confident he'd say no, walk away and stick to his guns.

"When you're sent to the screen, and the VAR thinks you've made a clear and obvious error, that's the key issue. That must play on your mind - have I missed something?

"But you've got to be mindful going to the screen too that you're the one making the decision, you retain all options.

"He could've said no, in my opinion it struck him. He's running through his list of considerations - is it a deliberate handball? Certainly not. Has it come from a short distance at speed? Certainly yes. Is his arm in an un-natural position? Definitely not because he's in a running motion.

"But the key one is - has it come off his body? It hits his chest before his elbow, and the distance between that is almost touching both. He's got no chance of getting out of the way."

What is the handball law?

IFAB, who set out the laws of world football, have laid out guidelines on what does and doesn't constitute a handball offence - though leagues also have their own individual interpretations, which you can read below.

More generally, for the purposes of determining handball offences, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit. Not every touch of a player's hand/arm with the ball is an offence.

It is an offence if a player:

  • deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball
  • touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. 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
  • scores in the opponents' goal: Directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper or immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental

Yet more handball frustration?

Handball has been an issue from a Premier League perspective for a long time - just look back to the Covid-hit 2020/21 season when things became so bad that the interpretation of the rules was changed mid-season, and then rewritten for the following campaign.

But that did not solve the problem. The penalty Jack Grealish conceded in last season's FA Cup final was equally contentious, but perhaps the most striking of all was the one awarded to Luton against Wolves in the Premier League earlier this campaign, with Joao Gomes penalised when the ball deflected off his leg and onto his raised arm.

Wolves manager Gary O'Neil said that was "never, ever" a penalty while former Premier League referee and VAR official Mike Dean agreed it was a harsh decision - despite the 'unnatural' position of Gomes' arm.

"I have no idea why that's not been overturned by VAR," Dean said on Soccer Saturday at the time.

Analysis: Shocking call denies Newcastle

Sky Sports' Adam Bate:

Paris Saint-Germain scored with their 30th shot of the game and a number of those were clear opportunities so Newcastle could well have been punished earlier than they were. But it was the manner of the equaliser, a gift from the officials, that will so grate.

Mbappe did not breach the Newcastle back line with a bit of brilliance. He was handed the ball and able to convert from the penalty spot not because of a Newcastle error either. Just a desperately cruel penalty call that required a VAR review to make it happen.

The decision to award a spot-kick for the ball striking Livramento's arm after bouncing there via his chest would have been inexplicable regardless - there was nothing unnatural about his body shape. It is called running. But it was even stranger given earlier events.

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