Ahead of the new Premier League season, there have been a number of law changes added to the game as well as the introduction of VAR [Video Assistant Referee] in the top flight.

Here, we outline all the changes ahead of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign...


IFAB, the international football laws arbiter, changed the handball law this summer so that contact no longer has to be deliberate, and UEFA will apply that as well as the ‘natural silhouette’ in the Champions League.

In English competitions, the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) has decided to retain the old interpretation as some feared attackers might deliberately target defenders’ stray hands.

However, a free-kick will now be awarded if an attacker handles the ball while scoring or setting up a goal, or the ball strikes an arm that is above the shoulder or positioned to make a barrier to a pass or shot.

Drop balls and goal-kicks

On a drop-ball, the team that last touched it will be handed possession, unless the incident takes place in the goal area, in which case the ball will be given to the goalkeeper.

At goal-kicks or free-kicks, the ball will be considered in play as soon as it is touched, and not, as previously, only when it has left the penalty area.

Encroachment by players before the ball left the 18-yard box happened regularly as Chelsea played the ball out from the back last season, and retakes were frequent. Pressure on goalies and defenders is now likely to increase, and fast attacking players could reap the benefit.

However, attackers may no longer mingle with a defensive wall at set-pieces but must stay one metre away or risk conceding an indirect free-kick.

Penalties and free-kicks

The toss becomes more meaningful this season: previously a captain making the right call could select an end; now they can choose to take the kick-off.

On penalties, a player will not have to leave the field after receiving treatment for injury before attempting a spot-kick, and a goalkeeper must have one foot on or behind the goal-line when it is taken.

Sometimes a team takes a quick free-kick before the referee has penalised the offender with a card. The official is now able to delay the punishment until the next stoppage.


A substituted player must now depart the field at the nearest bye-line rather than saunter to the halfway line where the bench is.

League table

For the first time this season, head-to-head results could come into play in the Premier League. Should two teams finish on the same points, goal difference, and goals for tally, the higher position will go to the side who did better in matches between the teams. Previously in such circumstances a play-off match had been mooted.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system explained

• VAR will be trialled in the Premier League for the first time, in every fixture• It will review ‘clear and obvious’ errors by officials in four game-changing scenarios: goals (and incidents leading to them), penalties, red cards and mistaken identity• PGMOL says its VAR teams will take a ‘high bar’ approach to what constitutes ‘clear and obvious’ to maintain game flow• Matters of fact – offsides, ball out of play etc – will not require a referee to review the incident• Assistants will still indicate offsides but referees may wait to see an attack unfold before stopping the game – players are being urged to play to the whistle, not the flag• Reviews will be announced and shown on big screens inside all stadiums except Old Trafford and Anfield (where there are none)