Fifa legal experts are meeting on Thursday to examine their regulations to decide whether South Africa’s World Cup qualifier against Senegal should be replayed after the Ghanaian referee was found guilty of fixing the outcome of the game‚ Fifa insiders told Business Day.
Shock waves reverberated at the start of the week, when Fifa said its disciplinary committee had banned Joseph Lamptey of Ghana for manipulating the result of the match.
World football’s governing body said Lamptey was banned for life from any form of football activity‚ be it administration‚ sports or any other‚ in the harshest sentence it can impose.
He had been found guilty of unlawfully influencing the match result when SA beat Senegal 2-1 in their Group D qualifier at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane in November 2016.
Linesman David Lartey‚ who had also been charged‚ was found not guilty.
Fifa’s statement on Monday said more details would be made available once the decision was binding‚ in other words once Lamptey has exhausted any appeals he might consider, although he is unlikely to do so.
Fifa insiders told Business Day they had been alerted to the possibility of match fixing by irregular betting patterns, so investigated the match officials.
Lamptey had already been suspended by the Confederation of African Football and removed from the panel to officiate at the 2017 Africa Nations Cup finals for his poor performance in the game in which SA were awarded a soft penalty and netted a quickly taken free kick while Senegal’s players were still talking to the ref.
But that sanction had to do with his on-field performance and came without any knowledge that he had been paid to fix the result.
Fifa must now consider whether it will nullify the outcome of the game and order a replay – something it has done only once in World Cup history‚ some 12 years ago, when it declared invalid the result of the 2006 World Cup qualifying match between Uzbekistan and Bahrain and ordered a replay.
But on that occasion, it was a technical issue‚ where the referee made a blatant error and the Uzbekis protested straight away‚ that led to the decision.
If the SA-Senegal game is to be replayed‚ it will be a first because of match fixing.
Fifa monitors all betting on its matches and competitions. Irregular spikes in betting or unusually high amounts of money placed on the outcome of a game triggers alarm bells.
In February Fifa closed down its own Early Warning System and outsourced the work to Sportradar‚ a private company that was detecting global match fixing and irregular betting patterns for Uefa‚ the Asian Football Confederation and South America’s CONMEBOL.
At the time of the change‚ Fifa president Gianni Infantino was at pains to stress that weeding out betting criminals was still a priority.
Describing match fixing as “still a serious concern for everyone who loves the game”‚ Infantino said Sportradar would “invigorate and enhance” Fifa’s own integrity programme.