Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

FIFA block Irish replay hopes

FIFA have dashed the Republic of Ireland's hopes of a World Cup reprieve by insisting that the controversial play-off against France cannot be replayed.

France striker Thierry Henry thinks the "fairest solution" would be to replay the match following his handball in the build-up to the vital goal by William Gallas, but FIFA believe match referee Martin Hansson's decision to award the goal should stand.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) were today pondering their next action - though it looks highly unlikely that they can appeal to FIFA or take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.

Stephen Townley, a London lawyer who also acts as an arbitrator for CAS, said the court would not be able to become involved.

Townley said: "Looking at FIFA's statutes, this would come under violation of the laws of the game, in which case CAS could not pick up the dispute."

The FAI yesterday formally requested a replay but FIFA responded today with a statement saying: "The result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed. As is clearly mentioned in the Laws of the Game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final."

FIFA's response will now be considered by the FAI's board of management which was meeting this afternoon.

The FAI said in a statement: "A previously scheduled meeting of the FAI Board of management will take place this afternoon where the matter will be considered."

French striker Henry attempted to win back some friends he has lost since the match in Paris by insisting he is not a cheat, and the handball was a split-second instinctive reaction.

Henry said: "I have said at the time and I will say again that yes I handled the ball. I am not a cheat and never have been.

"Naturally I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa. Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control."

FIFA's announcement was not a surprise - a senior source at the world governing body said they had no option but to reject the demand.

The FIFA source told Press Association Sport: "There is no way the game can replayed.

"To do so would cause absolute chaos for football. If it was replayed then every match in the future would also be subject to these calls for a replay any time a referee misses an incident.

"FIFA's rules are absolutely clear. Law 5 states that a referee's decision on points of fact are final. That is the end of it. You cannot replay the match on this basis.

"You have to have a rule that says the referee's judgement is always right."

The wording of Law 5 of the Laws of the Game states: "The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final. The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match."

The FAI had claimed there was a precedent because FIFA ordered Uzbekistan to replay Bahrain in 2006 World Cup qualifier after the referee made a "technical error" after a penalty had been awarded.

However, in that instance, the referee was guilty of wrongly applying the rules rather than missing an offence.

Henry's handball would almost certainly have been spotted had there been an extra assistant referee behind each goal-line - the system that is the brainchild of UEFA president Michel Platini that is being trialled in this season's Europa League.

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