Henry Handball: FIFA’s Response Sidesteps The Issue
By comprehensively stating that France’s draw with the Republic of Ireland cannot be replayed under its laws, FIFA has sidestepped the more difficult question – should its laws allow for a game to be replayed? FIFA argues against this – a ‘FIFA source’ told The Guardian: “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”. That is a fair point, but again the question of whether France should be able to offer Ireland a replay has been avoided.
France has been able to hide behind the fact that although Thierry Henry was clearly shown by television replays to have handled the ball during the run of play leading to France’s equalising goal, it could not offer a replay, even if it wanted to. Law 5 of FIFA’s 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."
It would be easy to add a clause at the end of Law 5 allowing France to offer the replay. It could perhaps read something like this: “Following the conclusion of the game, the victorious team – or the team progressing to the next round of a tournament – may offer to replay the game if it feels that the result is unfair and the referee agrees”.
Hopefully, the extraordinary meeting of FIFA's Executive Committee - announced this week - will discuss making such a change.