Premier League referees are to take a lenient approach to applying the new handball law after an outcry from across the game.

This season there have been five penalties awarded for handball in three matchdays, compared with 19 across the whole of the last top-flight season. The change has been blamed on a new interpretation of handball which punishes a defender if the ball strikes their arm in an “unnatural” position.

After criticism from managers and players, Premier League club executives on Tuesday endorsed a change which would give referees more leeway in interpreting the law. The change has been endorsed by Ifab, the body which sets the laws of the game.