FIFA and the Lamptey Decision has set a Dangerous Precedent.

Lamptey’s decision to award a penalty to South Africa for a non-existent handball was a bizarre and awful mistake. The ball was nowhere near the players hand and none of the South African players even appealed for the decision. Yet Lamptey made his decision, and now African football is dealing with the consequences.

Senegal protested to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) about the decision, who initially gave him a three month ban. FIFA, however, responded to the mistake by banning Lamptey for life and ordering the game to be replayed. FIFAs decisions could have huge ramifications for the game, especially at the international level, in Africa and beyond.

Looking at the decision to ban Lamptey for life, while not wanting to accuse FIFA of racism, but would a non-African ref be dealt with in such a harsh manner for making the same mistake? As a long suffering England fan I remember the goal that never was during the 2010 World Cup, when the ball had clearly crossed the line. Did FIFA order the game replayed and the hand out life bans to the Uruguayan officials? Perhaps we can argue that the incidents were different, yet both took place during high stake matches.

Human error occurs in every facet of life. Of course if Lamptey had deliberately given the decision in order to influence the game then a life ban is legitimate. However, if he genuinely believed that it was a penalty, should that warrant such a drastic decision? In Germany there has been attempts to help referees through giving them access to video assistants during games to aid their decision-making. Perhaps FIFA should look at rolling this out across international matches as much as possible to help referees, rather than giving lifelong bans.

Ordering a replay of the game for me is by far the most dangerous precedent that FIFA can set. I am sure many fans of the Teranga Lions will disagree with me (unless of course they end up losing the replay as well), but African nations will now expect the same treatment as Senegal. We have already seen the impact of this decision during the Uganda v Ghana World Cup Qualifier on the 7th of October.

Both Uganda and Ghana needed to win in order to have any chance of qualifying for the World Cup. Both sides had chances in an end to end game, however it was Ghana who found the only goal in the very last minute, only for the linesman to raise his flag and give offside. Replays show that the assistant got it wrong and it was a clear goal. Ghana players and management were furious.

Immediately after the game the Ghanaian FA lodged a protest with FIFA, calling for the referees to be investigated and for FIFA to consider a replay. Before FIFA made its decision on the South Africa v Senegal game, Ghana would have had little to no hope of getting a replay, and it would have been unlikely that the referees would have been reprimanded. However, FIFA has now opened the door to replays on the basis of wrong refereeing decisions.

What we will start to see is a huge increase in African nations lobbying FIFA following any controversial refereeing decision that costs their team the game. I cannot blame them for doing so, as the action taken by FIFA with regards to Lamptey and the replaying of matches’ means that the precedent has been set. It would also not be surprising if this spread to other continents and competitions, as teams and countries will look on FIFAs decision as a precedent going forward. It will be interesting to see how FIFA deals with the fallout that is to come following its decision.

Featured image | soccer ball: Armando Sobrino | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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