UEFA has opened a real can of worms by ordering the final 18 seconds of the European Women's Under 19 Championship qualifier between England and Norway to be replayed following a refereeing error. However, FIFA did something similar during a 2006 World Cup qualifier. Back in 2005 Uzbekistan were playing Bahrain in the Asian zone fourth-round play-off first leg when Japanese referee Toshimitsu Yoshida incorrectly awarded an indirect free kick to Bahrain after the Uzbeks had encroached at their penalty kick when 1-0 up. This happened in the 38th minute and FIFA ordered that the entire match be replayed which did not please either team. Uzbekistan only managed a 1-1 draw in the replay and a 0-0 score line in the second leg in Manama meant that Bahrain qualified. Current FIFA Head of Refereeing, Massimo Busacca, was in charge for the first leg re-match and I was appointed to the second leg in Bahrain. It was surprising to receive four or five calls on the day of that game from FIFA stressing how important it was that the game passed without any errors in law which would provoke another appeal.
Winding forward to the latest incident which was caused, incredibly, by an identical error by German referee, Marija Kurtes (photo), in the 96th minute of England’s 2-1 'defeat' by Norway in their qualifying group. England thought they had scored an equaliser in the dying seconds of the game from the penalty spot but Kurtes had spotted encroachment by at least one England player and rightly disallowed the goal. Had the penalty been missed she would have been correct to award an indirect free kick, but as it had been scored she should have ordered a retake. Now, UEFA has upheld England’s appeal and ordered that, in an evolution of the FIFA decision in 2005, the game should be replayed from the moment the technical error occurred. This bizarre decision was perhaps influenced by the fact that both teams are still present in the host city, Belfast, and are available following their final qualifying matches. However, this sets a dangerous precedent. If the same error is made in the opening minutes of a late group match in next year’s European Championship finals in France, will that match be replayed and the schedule of the whole tournament be thrown into disarray?
I almost caused just that at Germany 2006; my error, in not sending Josip Simunic off when showing him his second yellow card, could not be disputed and given FIFA’s decision in the qualifying stages of the same competition they would have struggled not to allow a re-match. The game was 2-2 at the time of the mistake and it stayed that way until the final whistle, but had Croatia scored they would have ‘qualified’. I remember being told by the Australians that, had Croatia scored a winning goal in the final three or four minutes, they would have appealed and expected a re-match at the very least.
Source: Graham Poll / Daily Mail