A record was last season in the Eredivisie: no fewer than 115 penalty kicks were given. On average 0.38 per game. This year it is different. The 0.2 per game average so far is the lowest since the 2004/2005 season.

A striking trend, according to data agency Opta Sports. This season Feyenoord, PSV and Ajax played a total of 64 official matches and in all those matches only the Rotterdam team were allowed to score once for a penalty, during Feyenoord-NEC on September 25.

That statistic is also a world of difference compared to last season, when the three clubs together had already been awarded 28 penalty kicks after the same number of matches.

It is certainly striking, but it is also easy to explain, says Björn Kuipers. “Players are aware that everything they do in the penalty area is closely watched by VAR.”

Fewer dives and risks

According to the former referee, attackers therefore make fewer dives and defenders take fewer risks. “They will be smarter and think faster: I’ll be careful.”

“And referees only give a penalty when everyone understands that it really is a penalty.” In other words, it must clearly be a violation and since the introduction of the VAR, that too has been seen more and more.

Could it also have something to do with the changed hand rule? “No,” says Kuipers firmly. “That change compared to last season is in making offensive hands.”

It’s like this: if an attacker accidentally gets the ball on his hand and then scores, the goal is disallowed. But if the ball comes to a fellow player and that person scores, the goal now counts. That would also be rejected last season.

Defensively, nothing has changed, explains the former top referee. “If as a defender you keep your arm outside your body in an unnatural way and that’s where the ball comes in, it’s a penalty kick. That was already the case.”


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