Belfast Telegraph

IFA want FIFA to pay for ref's £7million World Cup mistake in Northern Ireland's play-off tie

 

Paul Ferguson in Basel

Aggrieved Irish FA chiefs are ready to pursue a compensation claim with Fifa after Ovidiu Hategan's refereeing howler at Windsor Park ultimately eliminated Northern Ireland from the 2018 World Cup.

Hategan's decision to award Switzerland a penalty for a non-existent handball by Corry Evans, which Ricardo Rodriguez scored, was the defining factor in the two-legged shoot-out, with Northern Ireland bowing out following a scoreless draw at the St Jakob-Park Stadium on Sunday which gave the Swiss a 1-0 win on aggregate.

The Belfast Telegraph understands Hategan admitted his error immediately after the game in Belfast, expressed deep regret and is set to be demoted by Fifa. He will not officiate in next summer's World Cup finals.

But the Irish FA are vexed that Hategan's blunder cost them the chance to play for a jackpot of over £7m if they had taken the game into extra-time and a possible penalty shoot-out in Basel.

Windsor Park bosses would have received £6.1m for reaching Russia and also a further £1.1m in preparation costs.

The Irish FA are not commenting on the matter publicly, but the Belfast Telegraph understands IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson wrote to Fifa, football's world governing body and the organisers of the World Cup, on Friday morning to convey the Association's dismay at the standard of refereeing during the first leg of the World Cup play-off and the fact Hategan's appalling decision could play a crucial role in the outcome of the tie.

They have accepted the result will stand and Northern Ireland will not be playing in Russia next summer, however Nelson is believed to have contacted Fifa yesterday with a view to opening a discussion on the controversial decision and compensation will be on the agenda in any future meeting.

There is precedent for Fifa handing out compensation in controversial circumstances.

In January 2010 they gave the Football Association of Ireland a €5m 'loan' after Thierry Henry's handball, which wasn't penalised, led to France dumping the Republic out of the 2010 World Cup play-off.

This was to stop FAI legal action against Fifa. It was supposedly for financial aid with regards the new Aviva Stadium but Fifa subsequently wrote off the 'loan'.

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