Thierry Henry's Hand of God: Where Does This Leave Football?

Brian RhodesSenior Analyst IDecember 3, 2009

In light of recent events in Paris the debate for video evidence in football has raised its ugly head again.

With Thierry Henry's "Hand of God" moment the Republic of Ireland exited the World Cup in the cruelest of fashions, but where does that leave football as a whole?

FIFA have come out and stated that there will be no change to the rules for the World Cup in South Africa next year. Ireland's request to replay the tie again was always doomed to failure—for one simple reason, "Precedent".

The fact that France have got to the World Cup Finals by cheating has not been lost on anyone, but any hopes of Ireland gaining a replay of the match, or even an extra spot at next year's finals, were always doomed to failure.

The implications of any changing of the outcome of the match in light of the video evidence would be like opening every contentious decision up to video scrutiny. The just thing to do would have been to replay the match as Ireland had wanted, but that would set a precedent.

Once that door is open there is no hope of closing it. Would Sheffield United, who were relegated from the Premiership because of Carlos Tevez's inclusion as an ineligible player then demand that Manchester United replay their match against West Ham? I know that is an extreme example, but if FIFA make the decision to change their rules for one then they could do it for another.

The best course of action for FIFA would be to lay out a strong set of post match rules based on video evidence. If a player is found to have cheated in a game, for example handling the ball in the box as Henry did or clearly diving to "win a penalty" or get a player sent off, then a "video review panel" could give punishments to the players or the clubs if the referee missed it.

A three-man panel should be made up of an ex-referee, ex-player or manager and a legal expert or official of the sports governing body. The ex-professionals on the panel should be voted onto the panel by their peers so that there is no show of bias.

They should be able to hand out player bans for simulation, or other contentious issues raised teams on the wrong end of decisions or by the governing body, and players who are accused should be allowed to appeal the charges.

The cost to teams that have been cheated can be immense as Ireland have just discovered, not just for the nation but for everyone involved. The FAI have lost out financially, the Irish players have lost out because it could have boosted their careers in immeasurable ways. The Irish fans have missed out on possibly going to a tournament that for a nation of Ireland's size is very very difficult to qualify for at the best of times.

However, I don't feel that results on the field should be changed. If an official missed a call or made a bad decision on the field it stays on the field. The only way that sportsmanship can return to football it would seem is for players to be punished for their transgressions.

It doesn't help that diving is now called simulation. By calling it simulation it validates it and makes it appear to be much less of a bad thing.

It is also common place now to say that when a player dives in the penalty area they win a penalty, that should stop. They haven't won a penalty they have cheated to gain an advantage. The player should be banned for at least five games. If they persist and do it again increase it to a 10-game ban, and then a 15-game ban.

Coaches, managers, and team owners will start to tell their players to stay on their feet because losing a player for so long can be more detrimental to a side than the possible short term advantage of the penalty.

These punitive penalties won't help Ireland but in this instance it would have been prudent for FIFA to ban Henry for at least nine games. This would preclude him from taking any further part in the French team's South Africa campaign.

It would only be of small consolation to the Republic of Ireland but it would certainly send a clear deterrent to future cheats of the game.