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By ESPN Staff
Nov 23, 2009

FIFA call meeting to discuss play-off controversy

Sepp Blatter has called a crisis meeting of FIFA chiefs following Republic of Ireland's controversial World Cup exit at the hands of France but the world governing body is not considering a U-turn over its decision to refuse a replay.

Blatter has called an extraordinary meeting of FIFA's executive committee to deal with the fall-out of the match in Paris where Thierry Henry's obvious handball led to the goal that caused Ireland's defeat in the play-off.

The meeting will also deal with the violence sparked by Egypt and Algeria's World Cup play-off and the hundreds of arrests across Europe by officers investigating corruption in football. It is understood that a replay of the Ireland v France match is not on the cards, with a senior FIFA source saying: "A replay is impossible - it would be against the rules of football."

But one possible outcome of the meeting could be a proposal to fast-track UEFA's current experiment in the Europa League of having an extra assistant referee behind each goal-line in time for next summer's World Cup finals.

The system is being championed by UEFA president Michel Platini and, though it would have to go to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting in March for a vote, any proposal would almost certainly be passed.

Scottish chief executive Gordon Smith, who sits on IFAB along with the three other home nations and FIFA, said: "I've no doubt that Michel Platini will use this incident to push the system and they may now decide to put it to IFAB that they want to have it at the World Cup.

"I feel that it has its advantages at the highest levels of the games. When there's massive TV coverage, the problems are highlighted all over the world, so this is something we may have to look at.''

Blatter is also likely to condemn Henry's action but to stop short of pushing for a suspension for Barcelona's French striker. The FAI, meanwhile, have said they are happy to contribute to the meeting in any way.

The FIFA president will also address the issue of seeding, both for the play-offs - which were criticised by the Republic - and the finals. He is also expected to express his concern over allegations of match-fixing.

UEFA confirmed last week that they has been assisting the German authorities with investigations into corruption and match-fixing allegations relating to up to 200 games in domestic league games in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey. A further 12 Europa League and three Champions League games are also under investigation.

FIFA said in a statement: "Due to recent events in the world of football, namely incidents at the play-offs for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, match control (refereeing) and irregularities in the football betting market, the FIFA president has called an extraordinary meeting of the executive committee.

"The extraordinary meeting of the executive committee will take place in Cape Town on 2 December 2009."

Meanwhile, Henry has said he was stunned at the people who had turned their back on him.

Henry told French radio station RTL: "It's okay - it's getting better, you could say. I'm beginning to digest it a bit better. The first handball honestly was like an awakening. With the first handball, I didn't even know that it touched me, it's after that I had a bad reflex, on the second. I swear I don't even know the first touched my hand.

"I have had many calls from players, coaches, people I had lost touch with, who have supported me who have told me that all this really didn't matter, that this had all gone too far and that I was totally in tune with them.

"But people who should have come forward to defend me and perhaps smooth over what is happening in France and especially smooth over what is happening in England, well I did not see anyone. You know when you think that you will be supported, but there was no support and honestly that really shocked me."

Henry said he had given everything to help France qualify for the finals.

"I have always fought for Les Bleus and I will always fight for Les Bleus," he said. "Since the beginning of the season, I have come to play for the national team carrying injuries.

"I have even put myself at odds with my club - the club and the coach Pep Guardiola have been extraordinary on this matter because he understood that I wanted to play and try to qualify the France team.''

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