Understandably the United States of America is in shock that its men’s football, or as they call it soccer team, has failed to qualify for the World cup next year in Russia.
This is the first time that the United States will not be competing at the World Cup Finals since 1986. So understandably this is a big shock to fans across that vast nation. It is also believed to be a failure that will cost the game millions of dollars and slow the progress being made by the Major League Soccer competition.
Now some may say that they are sore losers, but it looks as if circumstances conspired against them. Panama beat Costa Rica 2-1 to clinch the final qualification spot and send the USA crashing out, but Panama’s first goal didn’t cross the goal line. Today it was understood that the USA were exploring all avenues as to whether they could appeal, based on this error.
It would seem unlikely that they will based on history. Let us cast our minds back eight years when Thierry Henry controlling the ball with his hand before setting up William Gallas for an extra time winner to deny the Republic of Ireland a place at the World Cup Finals in South Africa.
Ireland were understandably furious. A replay of the game was demanded, but it wasn’t to be. Ireland had to stay at home and sup their Guinness smiling with satisfaction as the French imploded in South Africa.
After the game that saw them knocked out John Delaney, chief executive of the FAI said “It’s not about money. This is about sporting integrity.” Yet was it in the end?
It later transpired that the FAI accepted $5million from FIFA not pursue a legal case. The $5million was explained away in a FIFA statement that claimed it was a “loan” to the FAI for the building of a stadium. The $5m was to have been repaid if Ireland qualified for the 2014 World Cup. When they failed to make Brazil, FIFA wrote off the “loan”.
This was an explanation few believed or accepted. After all who would accept such an agreement? Qualification for the 2010 World Cup would surely have been have worth more than ten times the “loan” received from FIFA. It was a moment the players and coaching staff deserved, let alone the fans.
While fans in the USA are screaming for their national body to raise an appeal they would be wise to remember the plight of Ireland. Sure there is a new guard at FIFA, but so far nothing much seems to have changed in the way that they operate.
There are many who are asking can the USA appeal a decision in a game that they were not playing?
It would appear that they can. The CONCACAF Rules state that an appeal can be filed for “parties directly affected by a decision” and that there are 21 days to file it. In this unusual case the USA have been affected by that decision, of that there can be no doubt. The awarding of that goal enabled Panama to secure a victory that sees them qualify for Russia 2018 at the expense of the United States. Yet is that how the legal people will interpret the rule?
It could well prove a long-winded process as according to the CONCACAF rules in Article 54 it states:
“Jurisdiction of CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland) as an appeals arbitration body
1. As an appeals arbitration body, CAS shall be entitled to hear appeals against final decisions passed by CONCACAF.
2. Only parties directly affected by a decision may appeal to CAS. However, where doping-related decisions are concerned, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) may appeal to CAS.
3. The time limit for appeal to CAS shall be twenty-one (21) days from the receipt of the decision in question.
4. An appeal before CAS may only be brought after CONCACAF’s or FIFA’s internal procedures and remedies have been exhausted.
5. An appeal shall not have any suspensory effect as a stay of execution of a disciplinary
sanction, subject to the power of CAS to order that any disciplinary sanction be stayed pending the arbitration.
6. CAS shall not take into account facts or evidence which the appellant could have submitted to an internal CONCACAF body by acting”
Usually in situations such as this football has a hard an fast rule that the result stands. Sticking to the old adage that the referee’s decision is final. Yet now, with players and teams being punished post game with panels reviewing footage of incidents they have opened up a new avenue of appeal for situations such as this where a goal was clearly not scored.
It is highly unlikely if the USA did go down the appeal path that they would be successful, as changing the outcome of this game would have ramifications on the final pool standings, and Australia’s play off match with Honduras.
If the powers that be simply said that the goal was never a goal and therefore the game must be declared a draw. Costa Rica would still qualify, in second place but on 17 points behind Mexico. Panama would drop to 11 points and fall to fifth position and out of World Cup Qualification. Honduras would take their place, and Australia would have to play the USA over two legs.
If they were to replay the game, that would push back the play off game until December, because as pointed out it could alter the standings of three teams.
The USA has 21 days in which to lodge an appeal. With the bitter feeling around the country and an administration under fire for failing to qualify, as well as a county that loves a litigious battle, do not be surprised to hear in the next few weeks that they are heading down that path.
If they do, the scheduled play off game between Honduras and the Socceroos for November 6th cannot possibly take place. It is also unlikely that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will have reached a decision by the due date of the second leg scheduled for the 14th of November.
It would be understandable if FIFA again looked to “bargain” their way out of an appeal as the disruption an appeal would cause would be massive.
No doubt Honduras players and fans, as well as Australian players and fans, and FIFA’s heirachy will be watching the news bulletins out of the USA and counting the days down until that 21 day period is over. What is it the great Jimmy Greaves used to say? “It’s a funny old game.”