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Stranger Things: The Weirdest Rules In The English Premier League

Some of these headscratchers belong in the Upside Down.

By Andrew Woodin
Premier League Ref

Every once in a while, a healthy dose of weird does the body good. It can challenge our perceptions, clarify our personal beliefs, or simply pierce through the drudgery of daily life. But sometimes, weird is just weird, and too much strangeness is just flat-out annoying. Global soccer is no different. When it comes to the governing overlords of this footy fiefdom and their decrees, the top leagues in the world, including the English Premier League have implemented a couple bizarre rules that will hard boil the most chill aficionado. With the 2022-2023 season squarely upon us, here are a couple to be on the look out for so you don’t lose your marbles.

No Setting Up Your Own Back Pass

Picture this: you’re a star fullback who chases down a teammate’s errant pass. You save it from going out of bounds on your squad’s turf, and you flick it up to yourself before cheekily heading it to your keeper. If the immediate ear-piercing whistle doesn’t catch you off guard, the yellow card you’re about to be so graciously gifted will. Setting up your own pass to the goalie is a big no-no that even superstars like Ivan Perisic forget. While playing with Inter Milan in 2017, he found out the hard way when he juggled the ball up to himself before heading it back to the keeper in his team’s 18-yeard box. Seems benign enough, right? Besides leaving Perisic utterly bewildered as it did for the rest of his squad and Roma – neither of which noticed the infraction – the Croatian earned a yellow card, giving Roma a dangerous free kick – two costly admonishments that could easily change the outcome of the game.

Ivan Perisic frustrated

The reason for this stems from a FIFA rule that mandates players must not use any “trickery,” and if the player does, he must be cautioned for such “ungentlemanly conduct.” Take heed, all ye uncouth scalawags, this is a gentleman’s game!

The Ball Must Not Touch Foreign Objects

Okay, so while this might not necessarily contort and render the human face stupefied, it’s still aggravating. What happens if Cristiano Ronaldo’s on a breakaway, looking for the equalizer when, out of nowhere, a naked fan blitzes across the box, hoping to hug the superstar (it’s Ronaldo after all). The striker fires, and the ball rockets off the fan and into the net. No goal! As wild as it sounds, something similar happened in 2009 when Darren Bent scored with a very timely assist from a … beach ball? Yes, you heard right. A fan’s beach ball eventually found its way onto the pitch and diverted Bent’s shot mid-air for the score. Sadly, the ripple effects earned referee Mike Jones a demotion because he failed to stop the game and remove the “outside agent,” and the 16-year-old culprit, Callum Campbell, was lambasted with threats. “One fan told me to get my coffin ready, another said he’d make me into a curry,” Campbell recalls to the BBC. While Sunderland’s known for its curries, this one’s a hard pass.   


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Celebrations Can Be Penalized Even If Goal Is Overturned

Soccer goal celebrations are definitely getting better, (though Terrell Owens could give his EPL counterpoints a master class in proper execution), but players can still be penalized for any deemed excessive. So what happens in the event the goal preceding one of those celebrations is waved off? Despite there literally being nothing to celebrate, that baller Macarena-Chicken dance amalgam you just performed could still land you in hot water. (Cue T.O.’s head spontaneously combusting.) As the EPL continues to embrace technological advancements, VAR can and will spoil the fun, and if that happens, it’s all for nothing! Though the paradox of being punished for something that technically doesn’t exist might seem better suited for The Matrix, this is sadly a fact of EPL life.

If A Player Refuses Substitution, The Game Continues

Though this is a rare and somewhat unimaginable level of disrespect to a manager, a player apparently has no obligation to come out of a game. During the 2019 Carabao Cup Final, Chelsea goalie Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to come off the field when summoned for a substitution by manager Maurizio Sarri, sending the latter into a raging tailspin. The rattled Italian coach went full Tasmanian Devil while 80,000 fans at Wembley sat stunned. After Chelsea fell to Man City, the Spaniard contended that the incident was “no big deal.” That seems like an egregious understatement considering the 27-year-old keeper fell behind Edouard Mendy in 2020, and has recently been linked with a move away to Napoli, according to The Athletic.

Kepa Arrizabalaga frustrated

With all the strange rules currently percolating throughout the Premier League, there is a former oddity that we’d like to see reinstated: the dissent rule. The concept behind this regulation, designed to mitigate players’ open and brash dissent against officials, is simple, and even better, it makes sense! Originating in the 2001-2002 season, this rule allowed refs to relocate a free kick 10 yards closer to the goal if the opposition protested the official’s call. Disagree? The alternative of letting refs get bum-rushed off the pitch by 10 foaming-at-the-mouth players just might change your mind.       

Watch Premier League coverage on USA Network, featuring Premier League Mornings, select matches, and Premier League Goal Zone (check listings for games/schedule). And catch up on all the action on Peacock.

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