By Jason Pettigrove
Invariably when we talk about refereeing performances, it’s often the howlers that stand out. Those decisions where you just hold your head in your hands and think ‘how on earth?’
Any official could be having a blinder, but one moment of madness can see all credibility lost. It’s unfair, but it goes with the territory, unfortunately.
When we look back and remind ourselves of the examples below, it’s hard to imagine that these instances really did occur because there really is no excuse for being that bad…
Clive Allen’s goal that never was
The 6th September 1980 will be a date that Crystal Palace’s Clive Allen will never forget.
Highfield Road, Coventry, was the venue and when trailing to the hosts, Palace were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the box after Gerry Murphy was upended by Sky Blues’ Mick Cooper.
It was a chance for the away side to draw level in the game and the resulting kick was nudged to Allen who hit as sweet a strike as you’ll see which flew into the top corner, hitting the stanchion before bouncing back into play.
However, no goal was awarded, causing the Eagles’ to surround the match official, who was forced to consult his assistant referee. To the utter disbelief of everybody in attendance, he too ruled that no goal had been scored, leaving Palace’s players and supporters equally frustrated.
Graham Poll’s three yellow cards for Simunic
Considered England’s premier referee at the time, Graham Poll won’t want to be reminded of his actions during the Australia vs. Croatia World Cup match in 2006.
The game held some importance as it would ultimately decide who would be the second to qualify from Group F to the knock-out stages.
Yet, after it took Poll three yellow cards before he sent off Croatia’s Josep Simunic, it became almost incidental who had won the game, with worldwide sports pages full of commentary on such an elementary, but extremely high-profile mistake.
FIFA took action soon after the game sending Poll home in disgrace, and he would retire from the sport not long afterwards, with the shockwaves from that moment clearly affecting his judgment.
Charles Corver lets Harold Schumacher get away with assaulting Patrick Battiston
It’s the 1982 World Cup semi final between France and Germany in Seville.
Patrick Battiston has been on the pitch barely ten minutes when a delicious through ball from Michel Platini finds Battiston eating up the yards in front of goal.
Although there is a German defender in the vicinity, his placing means Battiston is virtually one on one with goalkeeper Harold Schumacher who comes racing out to address his opponent.
Not content with standing tall, Schumacher follows through with a head-height, mid-air challenge which leaves Battiston out cold with three teeth missing.
When watching the footage again, even all these years later, the sheer brutality of the challenge is undiluted. Battiston’s head takes the full force of Schumacher’s hip, which eventually resulted in the Frenchman slipping into a coma.
At the time, though, not only did referee Charles Corver fail to book Schumacher, he actually allowed play to continue from the point where Battiston’s shot had gone wide. Astonishing.
Stuart Attwell allows the “ghost goal”
It’s pretty fair to say that Stuart Attwell’s refereeing career still hasn’t fully recovered from this debacle in 2008.
Reading were the visitors to Watford’s Vicarage Road and with the scores locked at 0-0 after 13 minutes a corner was swung in by the Royals’ Stephen Hunt.
A goalmouth scrambled ensued, the ball hit the crossbar in the melee and was cleared.
What no one expected was Attwell, on the advice of his assistant Nigel Bannister, to award a goal. Not even the Reading players claimed it.
To compound his monumental error, Attwell then sent off Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd for complaining about the decision!
Reading manager Steve Coppell offered to replay the game, but in defence of their official the Football League refused to bow to the pressure and the result stood.
Ball boy scores in Brazil
Yes, you read that correctly. A ball boy scored a goal in Brazil, which ultimately led to the suspension of referee Silvia Regina de Oliveira.
In the match where the incident occurred, Santacruzense were trailing 1-0 in the final minute to their visitors Atletico Sorocaba and were awarded a free kick which was quickly taken.
The cross was delivered and despite the best efforts of the strikers, the ball hit the side netting.
Rather than returning it to the goalkeeper, the ball boy behind the goal dribbled it in and as De Oliveira turned and saw the ball nestling in the back of the net, her instincts were to consult her linesman, who confirmed the goal.
Sorocaba were understandably livid and surrounded the official imploring her to overturn the decision, but their protests fell of deaf ears and the match was drawn.
Ref scores in 1986
Can you imagine heading into injury time with the scores still level, after playing your heart out and then losing right at the death? Heartbreaking, isn’t it?
For Besiktas that nightmare became a reality in their match against Ankaragucu in 1986.
Only this defeat came with a twist – with the referee scoring the winner!
Standing at the far post and quite obviously intending to steer well clear of the action, the official was dumbstruck as the ball flew toward him, via a wicked deflection, and bounced off him into the net.
Incredibly, he immediately signalled for a goal which turned out to be decisive in the match.
Besiktas’ feelings are all too clear at the final whistle just moments later.