VAR screen

Explained: Rule changes for 2020/21 Premier League season

Thursday 27 August 2020 10:00

Whether you like it, loathe it, or are somewhere in the middle, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system is here to stay.

The 2019/20 season was the first campaign where the technology was utilised in the Premier League, with varying degrees of success.

Earlier this month, shareholders at the Premier League’s Annual General Meeting agreed VAR would remain for the upcoming ’20/21 term, in line with FIFA protocol.

That means VAR’s implementation will be different in five key areas…
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Next season, referees will be encouraged to use the VAR screens at the side of the pitch more regularly. Officially referred to as the Referee Review Area (RRA), the monitors will be employed for subjective decisions surrounding goals, red cards and penalties.


Officials will be stricter in how they approach penalties and if a spot-kick is missed when a goalkeeper’s foot is off the line, VAR will order the penalty to be retaken. However, if a goalkeeper is off his line and the penalty hits the post or misses the target, it will not be ordered to be retaken.

A player can now only be deemed as encroaching from a spot-kick if they have a direct impact on the ball (i.e. they clear it or tap in a rebound). Encroachment is also only judged on a player’s foot and whether it’s in, or on, the penalty area or arc line at the edge of the box.


An official Premier League press released stated: “The [offside] protocol does not allow for tolerance levels.” That means there will be no real change to how offsides are judged and any ball-playing part of the body which is past the line of the last defender will be deemed offside, including a shoulder or a small portion of the foot.

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When an immediate goalscoring opportunity occurs, assistant referees will not raise their flag until the passage of play is over. When the attack has been completed, the official will then raise the flag if they deem the attacker to be offside. If a goal is scored, then that decision will be checked at VAR’s Stockley Park base.


The Premier League also confirmed earlier in August that the top flight will revert back to the use of a maximum of three substitutes per game, with a maximum of seven being named on the bench. Drinks breaks will also not be included next season, apart from in exceptionally warm weather.

The handball rule has also been altered for 2020/21 with the FA confirming that accidental handball by an attacking team will only result in a foul if it occurs immediately before a goal or clear goal-scoring chance.

The area of the arm considered to be penalised by the handball rule has been more clearly defined. The shoulder area is deemed not to be handball, but any part of the arm below the shoulder can result in a handball decision.

Get ready for next season. Our 2020/21 home and away kits are available now from United Direct.