Letter to the Editor: Interpreting laws of the game of football

Football does not have rules but instead laws which govern what is allowed on the field of play. Laws are written so as to be interpreted depending on the circumstances pertaining to a particular event.

How peculiar then was it to witness a referee deem that Moussa Sissoko deliberately handled the ball in the Champions League final. What was Sissoko trying to prevent by deliberately handling the ball?

Mane appeared to play an elevated ball backwards into an area where Mo Salah had four Spurs players in front of him. Furthermore, Sissoko first raised his hand outside the box in an effort to organise his defence.

Any reasonable interpretation of the law would indicate that a deliberate act of handball in such an instance would have been mere folly and, in effect, did not occur. Alas, the referee was incapable of applying the laws of the game correctly.

But what’s this, apparently, Roberto Rosetti, Uefa’s chief refereeing officer, provided some clarity in January. According to former referee Mark Halsey, Mr Rossetti provided some criteria to apply “regardless of whether the act was deliberate or not”.

How very interesting but utterly irrelevant. Not a single word of the laws of the game as determined by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the governing body, changed prior to the final.

Indeed Uefa clarified that new laws, including an updated law governing handball, would not apply until June 25.

In any event, did Mr Rossetti advise referees to ignore the laws of the game and the deliberate act of handball in January? Or is Mr Halsey mistaken in his summation of that briefing?

If the former, this would be a serious matter with Mr Rossetti and his referees usurping the IFAB as guardian of the laws of the game.

Referees are tasked with enforcing the laws of the game not making them. Maybe a journalist might investigate it more. The integrity of the beautiful game demands it.

Patrick Keating


Co Limerick

This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 5 June 2019.

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