The announcement today that Sepp Blatter has called an extraordinary general meeting of FIFA in Cape Town two days before the draw for the finals seems to be a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The rather terse statement on FIFA.com runs as follows:
‘Due to recent events in the world of football, namely incidents at the play-offs for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africaâ„¢, match control (refereeing) and irregularities in the football betting market, the FIFA President has called an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee.’
OK, let’s go through this point by point. Presumably the ‘incidents’ include the stoning of the Algerian bus in Cairo before their playoff with Egypt, ‘match control’ must refer to Thierry Henry’s ‘goal’ versus Ireland and the ‘irregularities in the football betting market’ refers to the wave of arrests that have taken place in continental Europe over the past week or so. The first one is a World Cup issue and a World Cup connection is implied within the second issueÂ so we’ll deal with them here: we’ll probably only discuss the third if it somehow becomes relevent to next summer.
The date of the meetingÂ automatically rules out the prospect of some kind of Ireland v France rematch, but – as has been suggested elsewhere – it may mean that the experiment with two extra officials patrolling the goal lines that is taking part in the Europa League this season may be permanent next summer. If – and it’s a big if – the extra official had seen Henry’s handball, then the goal might not have been allowed; it remains to be seen if video technology might be considered, but when one of the corporateÂ ‘partners’ is one of the world’s largest electronic manufacturers…well you get the picture. In HD where possible.
The bus stoning incident in Cairo was a pretty nasty one and both sides have blamed each other for it, but it was not the only problem during the qualifiers and certainly isn’t the first time that there’s been crowd trouble in Africa during qualifying competitions. Closer to home,Â Â the Serbian FA were fined Â£26,700 (approximately $45,000 or 29,500 or so Euros) for trouble caused by their fans during their qualifiers and elements of our lunatic fringe will try their best to cause problems next summer. Apparently ‘street’ drinking is illegal in South Africa even though it is felt that the local police will ignore it for the duration of the finals; a horde of rampaging hooligansÂ (or what might appear to be rampaging hooligans)Â in the middle of a country with an undeniablyÂ serious crime problem could be potentially catastrophic.
I really don’t want to come across as the voice of doom and I’d really like to think that the FIFA meeting might result in something positive, but quite what they’re going to do about an international superstar breaking Law 12 and getting away with it or how they expect to stop hooliganism by raising fines against national football associations is beyond me. Let’s see what they come up with…but don’t hold your breath.