Date: 30th May 2019 at 6:30am
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With Monday finally seeing Aston Villa return to our rightful home in the Premier League following our Championship Play-Off Final victory over Derby County a few things have changed since we were last in the top flight.

Plenty has changed at the club as well, thank God, but the first bit of business when we look past what will be endless transfer speculation given the riches now available to us on top of the spending power of our owners, is the fixture release day.

That will be 9am on Thursday, June 13. The opening fixture of our 2019/20 Premier League campaign will follow on Saturday, August 10 (but in fairness, I’m unsure if that will yet be kicked around by the television companies in their usual sod the fans fashion – but I’m guessing only kickoff time unless we get the August 9 spot).

The season will come to a close on Sunday, May 17.

In terms of rule changes, the Premier League has agreed to introduce Video Assistant Referee technology from next season onwards, so the usual incompetent refereeing we are all used to will now get its own replays as a bemused crowd watches on – probably not knowing what is happening given what we’ve seen from VAR so far.

On a referee front, we also welcome foreign referees for the first time in the league’s history and without being too cruel, they can’t be worse than some of the homegrown ones.

One such official will be Aussie Jarred Gillett who goes into the Select Group 2 and some will already know of the 32-year-old as he agreed to be miked up for one of his games in his homeland and it was a fascinating watch for the geeks amongst us.

In terms of other changes, even kickoff times have changed since we were last in the top flight, as fans can now get used to the bizarre 7.45pm slot on Saturday evening as this is now a regular thing.

Accidental handballs will now not result in a goal and a freekick outside of the box will be awarded if a player accidentally creates an advantage through such an action.

Drop balls will be more tasty as to avoid the usual shenanigans, the Thunderbirds (International Football Association Board – IFAB) have said.

“The current dropped ball procedure often leads to a ‘manufactured’ restart which is ‘exploited’ unfairly or an aggressive confrontation. Returning the ball to the team that last played it restores what was ‘lost’ when play was stopped, except in the penalty area where it is simpler to return the ball to the goalkeeper. To prevent that team gaining an unfair advantage, all players of both teams, except the player receiving the ball, must be at least 4m (4.5 yds) away.”

I’m not sure how that will stop a team from returning the opposition the ball by blasting it as far down pitch as possible, but maybe it’s me.

Substituted players now have to leave the pitch by the nearest point rather than snail pacing their way to the dugout and on freekicks, the attacking side can no longer have a player in the wall.

Penalties will now see goalkeepers have to keep one foot on the line and they can’t be allowed to touch the goalposts before a kick is taken.

Referees can now also dish out yellow cards to managers/coaches.

I think that’s the lot, but if it’s not I’m sure I’ll notice when I sober up.

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