Why controversial PSG penalty would not be given in England and experts’ verdict

Tino Livramento - Newcastle fume at controversial Var penalty that would not be given in England
Following an intervention from the video assistant referee, Szymon Marciniak awarded Paris St-Germain a penalty after Tino Livramento’s left elbow brushed the ball - Getty Images/James Gill

Newcastle United were denied one of the most famous victories in their European history against Paris St-Germain by a hugely controversial injury-time penalty labelled a “disgrace” and a “robbery” by pundits.

Eddie Howe, the Newcastle manager, said he felt a huge sense of injustice that the “wrong decision” had been reached and that “extreme pressure” was put on referee Szymon Marciniak.

The incident occurred as Newcastle were holding on to their one-goal lead in injury time despite a second-half barrage from the French champions.

Marciniak had initially waved away appeals after Ousmane Dembélé’s cross had hit Tino Livramento’s chest before striking his elbow, only to award the penalty after being advised to review his decision by the video assistant referee.

Kylian Mbappé scored from the spot to cancel out Alexander Isak’s opener and secure a 1-1 draw that means Newcastle must beat AC Milan and hope the French side fail to win against Borussia Dortmund in the final round of matches to secure qualification for the Champions League last 16.

The penalty would not have been awarded in the Premier League, with Uefa having stricter rules on whether handballs should be given if the ball bounces off a player’s body first.

Asked by Telegraph Sport if he felt a huge sense of injustice, Howe replied: “Yes, I do, it wasn’t the right decision in my opinion. There are so many things to take into account at that moment, the speed first. It was a ricochet that when it is slowed down looks completely different to the live event.

“The ball hits his chest first, comes up and hits his hand. But his hand is not in an unnatural position, they [his arms] are down by his side but he is in a running motion.

“I feel it is a poor decision and it’s hugely frustrating for us as you know how little time there is left in the game. There is nothing we can do about it now.”

Howe added: “Yes, of course [it’s a struggle to control my anger]. But I have to control myself, that is my job and it doesn’t do any good to lose control of your emotions when I speak.

“I’m just devastated for the players; the way they performed in very difficult circumstances and what that decision does to the group. Our destiny is not in our own hands now and that is tough to take after being in that position.

“I am still coming to terms with it. I feel really flat, but at the same time pleased with the players.

“The squad is very thin, we deserved a win. Our luck ran out at the end. The pressure put on the referee by the crowd was extreme.”

Would the penalty have stood in Premier League?

“Not a chance,” one senior figure in top-tier officiating responded when asked by Telegraph Sport. “And some English fans think it’s better everywhere else...”

The law states that a handball should be given if a player “deliberately touches the ball with their hand or arm ... for example, moving their hand or arm towards the ball” and mentions making the body “unnaturally bigger”.

Uefa historically instructed its referees to be stricter than the Premier League in administering that guidance, with players often previously punished in European competition when the ball hits the arm after deflecting off the body.

Lawmakers in England had initially used the same tougher rules three years ago, but they were quickly dropped after players and managers complained.

Szymon Marciniak
Marciniak rewatches the incident before awarding hosts Paris St-Germain the penalty - Getty Images/Alain Jocard

Analysing the late penalty on Tuesday, a source with knowledge of Premier League officiating explained why it would not have been given in England. “Arm position is key – it’s natural,” the source said. “Off the chest and onto elbow. Not above the head or unexplainable by body position. Also, deflection doesn’t mean absolutely not a penalty generally. Again, it comes down to the arm position. The Premier League adopts a different interpretation to other leagues.”

This season, Uefa was also supposed to relent on its previously harsh handball approach. In April, as the Uefa Football Board held its inaugural meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, there was agreement that the “same unified approach ... should be applied in domestic competitions across Europe”.

The group also recommended that “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”.

However, that recommendation by Uefa appears to have been forgotten by Marciniak and Var Tomasz Kwiatkowski.

In a clear sign Uefa believes the officials were mistaken, a new official will take over Kwiatkowski’s duties for Real Sociedad vs RB Salzburg.

Marciniak will face no action, however, as he was already due to be absent from the next round of matches because of the Club World Cup.

Uefa has a policy of not discussing incidents on the field of play but a source with understanding of the governing body’s position later maintained the referee and Var had made a mistake rather than following the wrong guidance.

Why did Miley escape a penalty shout?

Midway through the second half, in a similar incident to Livramento, the ball jumped up and touched Lewis Miley’s arm, which was checked by Var.

Why controversial PSG penalty would not be given in England and experts’ verdict
The ball appeared to touch Lewis Miley’s arm

It was ruled that Miley’s arm was in a natural position and there was no deliberate handball, though there do not look to be many differences between this and the one that was given.

TNT Sports pundit Jermaine Jenas said: “The one on Lewis Miley bounces up to his arm. Var had a really good look at it and said it was not a penalty. It’s negligence to the game. I am so frustrated.”

I understand Newcastle frustration – handball law needs to change

The decision to penalise Livramento for handball highlights why the law needs a revisit by Ifab. It will not help Howe’s side now, of course, but there needs to be a rethink over the law to stop inconsistent decision-making.

The law states that it is an offence if a player deliberately touches the ball with their hand or arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball. The officials have to judge in this situation if Livramento deliberately handled the ball.

Given his forward momentum and downward movement of the arm (see below), the match officials determined an offence had been committed. But these decisions become so subjective and referees must take into account the movement of the player and the natural position of the arm. I can understand Newcastle’s frustration on this point.


I have an ongoing concern that the handball law is becoming too subjective among officials and it is not being helped with the constant slow-motion replays that change the context around an incident. I would get rid of slow-motion replays for one, as I don’t believe there is a benefit to it, and instead just play in real time. All these slow-motion replays complicate the decision-making process. The majority of refs would give a decision based off slow-motion, but that is not the reality of the situation - it is a false picture.

Last April, in their guidelines for the upcoming season, the Uefa board recommended that there should be clarity that no handball offence should be called on a player if the ball is previously deflected from their own body. But this recommendation was not implemented – and Newcastle paid the price at Parc des Princes.

The best way forward is to make things a lot simpler as regards the handball law, and apply it across all competitions so there is a consistency in decision making. Rework the law and make it simpler – merely is it a deliberate handball or not – and do away with the slow-motion replays, and we may begin to see progress.

How did football react?

The decision was widely condemned elsewhere, with TNT pundit Jermaine Jenas incensed.

“It’s one of the most disgraceful decisions I’ve seen in a long, long time,” the former Newcastle midfielder said. “It is a shocking decision – not in any walk of life is that a penalty. What is he meant to do with his arms – wrap them around his back?

“I am fuming. There’s a feeling of being cheated. It should be a historic win leading them into the last game but they were absolutely robbed.

“The one on Lewis Miley bounces up to his arm. Var had a really good look at it and said it was not a penalty. It’s negligence to the game and what the players deserve. I am so frustrated.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the former Scotland international Ally McCoist, who said: “It comes off his chest, then hits his left elbow. If that’s a penalty we might as well forget about it.

“If we’re giving penalty kicks for that, it’s a disgrace. The whole night will be remembered by that decision. That penalty given has spoilt the whole evening. They will have to bring the word ‘deliberate’ back into the law somewhere.”

Former Newcastle captain Alan Shearer said on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Do me a f------ favour, man, what a load of s--- #Var.” The comment was shared by Newcastle co-owner Jamie Reuben, with the comment: “What Alan said.”

Despite the late hammer blow, Newcastle delivered a superb performance against one of the European giants and the point means they are guaranteed at least a Europa League place if they can avoid defeat at home to AC Milan in their final group game.

“The pride will come in time,” Howe said. “We will look at the positives of what the players gave. I couldn’t have asked for any more.

“There were some massive performances and I’m so disappointed they didn’t get to celebrate that moment of success with the win. But we are still in the competition, we are still fighting.

“When the draw came out, it was the ‘group of death’ and I don’t think many people gave us a chance of qualifying from it and sitting here now, I’m a little bit frustrated that it’s not in our hands because when I look back at the two Dortmund games. I felt we could have done better in those matches.

“I don’t think it’s the time for that, I think it’s probably a time to be positive and to say that if we can beat Milan, then good things can happen from it.”