Newcastle went barking mad, but the referee allowed the goal; there is nothing in the FA rulebook about the intervention of dogs

ON SATURDAY
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As Leicester discovered on Wednesday night, anybody can make a mistake - although that is little consolation when you are three minutes from a penalty shoot-out and the possibility of qualifying for the FA Cup quarter-finals, and that "anybody" is the match referee.

And what is so frustrating is that the referee, like the customer, is always right - even when he is wrong. I mean, how often have you heard a referee admitting he cocked up? Exactly. It is as rare as an East Fife win to hear an official admit, as Ian Borrett once did to the former Crystal Palace manager, Alan Smith: "I'm having a crap game and nothing you say will change it."

Even more worryingly, referees often reveal totally different priorities to the rest of us, as David Elleray proved last year when he said: "I do like Selhurst Park. There's a Sainsbury next to the ground where I can do the weekend shopping."

So while Mike Reed's mistake in awarding a penalty against Leicester for a foul that television revealed as a dive has inevitably raised the clamour for the introduction of video evidence, his is simply the latest in a long line of referees' balls-ups that are as much a talking point of a game as a sloping pitch.

Who could ever forget the appalling decisions that resulted in Maradona's infamous "hand of God" goal; Ronald Koeman getting off scot-free to end England's hopes of qualifying for USA '94 (and Graham Taylor's England career); Jeff Astle denying Leeds the 1971 championship; Harald Schumacher's unpunished assault on Patrick Battiston at the 1982 World Cup in Spain; and the Romanian goal that never was in Euro '96?

But far more bizarre - if admittedly less significant - was the goal scored by a dog against Newcastle Town in the Staffordshire Sunday Cup in November 1985. Stoke side Knave of Clubs were 2-0 down when one of their players hopelessly miscued his shot from 15 yards out - whereupon a dog ran on to the field and showed Duncan Ferguson-like prowess in rising to head the ball into the net. Newcastle justifiably went barking mad, but the referee allowed the goal; apparently there is nothing in the FA rulebook about the intervention of dogs.

There are rules, however, about the intervention by referee or linesman. So when the referee inadvertently deflected the ball into the net during a crucial 1968 match between Barrow and Plymouth Argyle, the goal stood, sending Barrow to the top of the Third Division (although the goal was later credited to a Barrow striker to save the referee's embarrassment).

But nothing could save the embarrassment of David Allison who, in 1985, booked Southampton's Danny Wallace for a foul that was actually committed by Jimmy Case, and then compounded his crime by sending Wallace off for a second bookable offence. Allison should never have made the mistake in the first place considering Case was 5ft 9in, 12st and white while Wallace was 5ft 4in, nine-and-a-half stone and black.

The Danish referee Henning Erikstrup was not even looking when he disallowed a goal in a game between Noerager and Ebeltoft in 1960. Noerager were 4-3 up when Erikstrup's false teeth fell out as he prepared to blow the final whistle. As he bent down to pick them up Ebeltoft equalised. Erikstrup disallowed the goal; he argued that while he had not actually blown, the 90 minutes were up and he "had to get my teeth back before some player put his big foot on them".

Then there was the referee who booked a mute player for foul and abusive language... and a certain Mr Kirkham who, having arrived 45 minutes late to referee a game between Derby and Sunderland in 1894, took the law into his own hands and ordered it to be restarted. Derby, who had been 3-0 up at the time, scored three more goals only for Sunderland to hit five in what was literally a game of three halves.

Mr WP Harper was doggedly unrepentant when the official allowed a Newcastle goal to stand against Arsenal in the 1932 FA Cup final, even though the ball had clearly gone out of play en route to goal. "It was a goal... as God is my judge. I was eight yards away," he claimed. Stills from British Movietone News show that the ball was definitely out and that Harper was 20 yards away. It was scant consolation to Arsenal: the record shows they missed out on the Double that year.

Belgium, meanwhile, missed out on progressing to the next stage of USA '94 thanks to the Swiss referee Kurt Rothlisberger, who failed to award either a penalty or send off the German defender Thomas Helmer for bringing down Josip Weber in the 76th minute of their group match, with Germany leading 3-2. Rothlisberger admitted his mistake on the back of video evidence and was discarded by Fifa since he was "nearing retirement age anyway" - which must have made the Belgians wonder what he was doing there in the first place.

So Mike Reed is by no means the only guilty party. But just a word of warning to those who favour video evidence as a means of judging such decisions. After the Corinthian player Edmundo was sent off for striking a Santos defender during Brazil's 1995-96 season, bungling club officials brought the wrong tape to the subsequent hearing, forcing the disciplinary committee to sit through 30 minutes of The Adventures of Scooby Doo.

Which just goes to show that referees are not the only ones who can makes a dog's dinner of things.

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