Football: Fifa to rule today on Arsenal rematch

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL AND Sheffield United might not, after all, replay their controversial FA Cup tie. While Arsenal are happy to play the fifth- round tie again tomorrow, Fifa, the world game's governing body, meets this morning and expects to make an announcement on whether the match can go ahead.

In the original game, Arsenal's Nwankwo Kanu raced on to a Ray Parlour throw-in that had been intended for the Sheffield United goalkeeper, Alan Kelly, before feeding Overmars for the winner. Despite support for the replay from its president Sepp Blatter, Fifa is considering whether competition rules have been broken, and has requested documents from the FA relating to Cup regulations.

"I am certain we have broken none of our own rules regarding the FA Cup," David Davies, the FA's acting chief executive, said. "That is the issue here. We have sole ownership of the FA Cup and while Fifa are doing this to satisfy themselves I am certain the match will go ahead as planned."

The change in Fifa's thinking on the rematch became apparent at the annual meeting of its law-making International Board in Wales on Saturday, which discussed the issue of playing the ball back to the opposing team after a stoppage, but decided not to incorporate it into law. There was one significant decision: yellow cards will be automatic for any player cheating, diving or feigning injury from next season. Under the modification to Law 12, "simulating action" on the field intended to deceive the referee will be deemed unsporting behaviour.

The Board also said it was continuing with an experiment, which has been operating in Jersey for the last year, of advancing a free-kick 10 yards, rugby-style, if the defending team does not retreat that distance.

Aston Villa are poised to ease their defensive crisis by signing Celtic's Alan Stubbs in a pounds 4m deal. Stubbs is set to complete the move to Villa Park in the next 48 hours and will make his debut against Coventry on Saturday.

South Africa will allow their captain, Lucas Radebe, to play for Leeds United in their FA Cup replay against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday in spite of international commitments three days later. Radebe has been called up in a squad of 18 for the African Nations' Cup qualifier at home to Gabon on Saturday.

The Blackburn goalkeeper, John Filan, is hoping for an international call from the Republic of Ireland, despite the fact he played for Australia in the 1992 Olympics. Fifa does not recognise Olympic games as full internationals. Filan said yesterday he is eligible for the Irish through his grandfather and would be interested in joining Mick McCarthy's squad.

Chris Sutton's international aspirations were given a fillip on Saturday, even though he did not take the field for Blackburn. The FA's Technical Director, Howard Wilkinson, went to Ewood Park to watch the Rovers striker, whose international career appeared to be over after he refused to play for the England B team. Sadly, Sutton failed a fitness test and Wilkinson's trip was wasted.