Football: Fifa inquiry fear

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THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION faces the possibility of a potentially embarrassing investigation by Fifa after it emerged last night that the referee of England's World Cup opener spent the night before the match with a leading FA official.

World football's governing body is certain to want to look into the circumstances in which the FA's referees' assessor, Ken Ridden, spent Sunday night in the company of the Japanese referee, Masayoshi Okada, and the match assessor in a luxury hotel here. The FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly, and others of its officials were also staying in the same hotel when Ridden dined with Okada and Volker Rolt, a German.

There were few really contentious incidents in yesterday's game, although Paul Ince was involved in a verbal exchange with the Tunisian bench at one point and an attempted overhead kick by David Batty resulted in his boot striking the substitute Imed Ben Younes above one eye.

England's coach, Glenn Hoddle, complained at the treatment his captain, Alan Shearer, received at the hands of his opposite number Sami Trabelsi, but Shearer himself had no complaints. "I expected to be man-marked and I thought I got protection. On 99 per cent of the challenges the referee gave me the free-kick." It was from one of those free-kicks that Shearer headed England into the lead.

Although there is no question of impropriety by the FA, there seems certain to be an inquiry of some sort by the game's governing body into Sunday evening's get-together.

Ridden said: "I was asked to come to dinner by the match assessor and I went back to Paris straight after the game. The local organising committee, on behalf of Fifa, were looking after the referee and assessor, while I was there doing an appraisal of referees in the tournament.

"Of course I can see the implication some people will draw, but I hope they won't. I hope there are no conclusions drawn and I didn't know Graham [Kelly]was in the hotel until I bumped into him."

However, Okada seems certain to have to explain to Fifa how he came to put himself in a position that could be seen as compromising.