James McClean and Martin O’Neill to face fines for referee criticism
McClean described the referee as the Austrians’ ‘12th man’ after Aviva qualifier draw
James McClean during the World Cup qualifier against Austria at the Aviva Stadium earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and player James McClean are likely to face fines from Fifa after the game’s governing body confirmed that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against both men as a result of comments made in the wake of the recent World Cup qualifier against Austria.
McClean looks to have the more serious case to answer having described the referee as the Austrians’ “12th man” while O’Neill questioned a couple of the Spanish match official’s decisions and described his overall performance as “poor”.
“Look, I know in this day and age, the slightest wee thing you say about a referee, you get fined and that,” McClean remarked in an RTE interview after the 1-1 draw with Austria. “But you watched the game, you tell me. They had a 12th man today. That’s all I’ll say on that. I’m really disappointed. We should have come away from that game with three points but we didn’t.”
In his press conference, meanwhile, O’Neill said. “I’m delighted to have got the equaliser and I thought that we had a legitimate, good goal disallowed. The referee wasn’t totally to blame for our performance in the first half, but I thought he was very poor in the game.
“Considering he was letting things go during the course of the game - that’s fine, I like referees who let things go - but he seemed to be penalising us a great deal.”
Both could potentially have suspensions imposed but in light of recent decisions relating to offences it seems highly unlikely. After the game between Slovakia and England, the Slovakian defender Jan Durica suggested in a post match interview that the sending off of his team mate Martin Skrtel had been part of a Fifa conspiracy to help England get to the World Cup at the expense of his country. But he received only a small fine.
“There is only one place at the World Cup,” he said immediately after the game. “Why should Slovakia go there, when we have England in the group? Of course, they will always prefer stronger team. Probably the referee exactly knew how to do it.”
Fifa reaction was to impose a fine of €5,000 while Iran coach Carlos Queiroz was let away with just a warning after he criticised match officials in the wake of his side’s game against Uzbekistan last October.
Both Irishmen are likely to face sanctions, though. Fifa takes on-field dissent and physical displays of disrespect far more seriously than comments in post match interviews with bans of between one and four games routinely imposed. But the FAI will be anxious to ensure that neither man’s involvement in September’s qualifiers against Georgia and Serbia is affected and, given the precedents, that seems unlikely.