Fifa set to approve extra referees

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The Independent Football

FIFA are tomorrow expected to finally dash the Republic of Ireland's hopes of playing in the World Cup but to approve Michel Platini's masterplan of having five referees at every match of next summer's finals.

An emergency meeting of FIFA's executive committee in Cape Town, called in response to the Republic's play-off defeat courtesy of Thierry Henry's handball, is set to fast-track the system of having an extra referee behind each goal-line.

Irish hopes of succeeding in a bid to be named as a 33rd team in the finals look forlorn however as FIFA insiders believe such a move would set a dangerous precedent.

Instead, FIFA are set to put their faith in the five-referees system being trialled in this season's Europa League.

The proposal would then go to the International FA Board (IFAB) - the game's rule-making body - for a vote but it would almost certainly be passed.

One FIFA executive committee member told Press Association Sport: "The mood is that something has to be done and the easiest solution is to bring in the extra assistant referees."

The Football Association of Ireland had officially requested they be included in the World Cup as a 33rd country but FIFA president Sepp Blatter has set the tone for tomorrow's meeting by saying they would "also have to bring in Costa Rica" who were denied a place in South Africa by an offside goal scored by Uruguay in their play-off.

Adding additional teams would also thrown Friday's final draw into complete chaos as it would affect the whole structure of the tournament.

There have been suggestions that Henry may face disciplinary action from the executive committee for his handball in the build-up to William Gallas decisive goal. That cannot be ruled out but there is no precedent for such an action.

The proposal to send the five-referees system to the IFAB meeting in Zurich in March will be far less controversial. The IFAB is made up of the four home associations, who each have a vote, and FIFA who have four votes. Any proposal needs six out of eight votes to be carried.

Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith has already revealed to Press Association Sport that he would look kindly on the five-referees plan, and England are also nailed on to back FIFA and UEFA because they will not want to upset them in the year of their bid for the 2018 World Cup.