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August 2021

In an interesting power shift, Fifa break their own rules and change the referee after UAE protests

by Tony Attwood

OK are you ready for a real conspiracy theory?  Try this one.

One of Untold’s valued overseas correspondents sent over a report this morning concerning the fact that for a United Arab Emirates game against Thailand the UAE demanded of Fifa that they change the referee, because the referee came from Qatar.

That of course is not allowed – countries cannot demand who does or does not referee them, anymore than Arsenal can complain about who the referee is for any of their matches.

But in this case Fifa gave in.

This looked interesting, so I did my usual editorial job of going to look for further information typing  “UAE demand change of referee for match against Thailand” into Google just to see who else was running the story and what was being said.

Not surprisingly the UK media had nothing on this – I would imagine the FA told them to lay off the story since it clearly undermines the credibility of Fifa and the World Cup if teams can object to referees. 

But there were a few other articles covering the story, including one from goal,com and one from ESPN.  Yet in each case when I clicked on these stories, the page was not there.

Now to be fair the ESPN report has just reappeared, but there are still only (at the time I write, around noon (BST) on 14 June four articles found concerning the issue and one is still out.  So worth investigating I thought.

Last September the Football Association of Thailand lodged a complaint with Fifa over the refereeing during their 1-0 defeat to Saudi Arabia in a World Cup qualifier.  The ref didn’t see a clear penalty for Thailand, and gave a free kick outside the area and then later gave a dubious penalty to Saudi Arabia for “an innocuous challenge” which Saudi Arabia scored.

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Also in September Japan lodged a formal protest over a controversially disallowed goal which led them to a 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to UAE.   TV replays showed Arsenal’s Takuma Asano having a shot which crossed the line in mid-air before being clawed away by goalkeeper Khalid Essa, but the goal was missed by Qatari referee.

No action was taken following these protests, and Fifa rules state that there can be no political interference in football.

Except now when the UAE’s demand for a change of referee for POLITICAL REASONS was immediately accepted and acted upon.  Thus Japan complains in match against UAE, and no action.  Thailand complains in match against Saudi Arabia, no action.  UAE complains about the ref in a match against Thailand, and the ref is removed.

Fifa said the decision was taken due to the “geopolitical situation” in the region, and announced the decision within hours of Gianni Infantino saying football’s governing body should not “interfere in geopolitics,” in an interview which was covered on Untold, but I don’t think has made it to many other English language outlets.

“We can confirm that Fifa has replaced the match officials originally appointed for the said game,” Fifa said in a statement to Associated Press. “The decision has been taken for sporting reasons and in view of the current geopolitical situation.”

And yet in the interview with Swiss newspaper Le Matin which we published yesterday Infantino said “The essential role of Fifa, as I understand it, is to deal with football and not to interfere in geopolitics.”

It is of course true that Fifa keep countries such as Armenia and Azerbaijan or Spain and Gibraltar apart in competitions, but that is quite different from changing a ref on the demand of one country just before the match.

Infantino continued, “I am confident that the region will return to a normalised situation. The World Cup is in 2022, in five years. Obviously, if football can make a small contribution, in any way … I will not hesitate to offer my help.”

Meanwhile the blockade of Qatar has continued to grow, with Saudi Arabia shutting Qatar’s only land border.

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9 comments to In an interesting power shift, Fifa break their own rules and change the referee after UAE protests

  • Adetunji

    Its been a long time here.Mr tony,the truth is that no matter how much we claim to be free and fair in applying rules in this world,some still get preferentiall treatments.its not an anomally here (Nigeria) in this part of the world.infact,its become a daily normal life routine.back to football,i stop giving credence to football rules because it tends to bend for some and stand rigid for the others. Officiating of most Arsenal fc football matches made sure of that. Just a shame the round leather game we all love is going down that lane.

  • Goonermikey

    Dontya just love Talkshite. Their website has just published this, “Which Premier League stadium provided best value for money entertainment in 2016/17?

    And guess who comes bottom…………….

  • finsbury


    Wasn’t that The Don’s favourite team? The association between the UEa FA & the match fixing cheat who the English FA appointed as England manager ahead of the greatest ever English football manager and coach, and consequently the relationship between the UAE Andrew the English fa and hence IFAB (who over-rule FUFA) must be a random and coincidental coincidence.

    The kind of story that Alan Partridge’s mutated and repulsive offspring such as Sir Henry Winter would attempt and fail to rewrite. Ah ha!

  • finsbury

    < between the UEA and the the English…

  • MickHazel

    I am sure, in the interests of fairness, that Talkshite will produce a similar value for money table showing which stadium offers the best and worst value for money in terms of trophies won.
    (But don’t hold your breath!!!)

  • MickHazel

    And when they have done that they could do a table showing which stadium offers the best and worst value for money in terms of number of games played in the Champions League.

  • Menace

    There are two things that are totally a waste of intelligent time. One is messing with the office junior; the other is paying heed to talkshite. There is clear evidence that Arsenal & Wenger are above the line when it comes to viewing of worldwide audiences. Manchester United have the best because of Dennis Law & Bobby Charlton back in the day. Arsenal because of the Wengerball that has got most talented footballers enamoured.

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption News

    It kind of looks like Modrić lost his nerve. So another corrupt person gets off. I wonder if the infant one at FUFA has a job for him?

  • para

    The one comment the article has, does say it all though.

    I thought Manu had the best – only because of their plane accident? World symphathy etc…