UEFA open disciplinary procedures against FAI due to fans' tennis ball protest

Thu, Mar 28 2019

Dozens of tennis balls rained down on the pitch from the stands, resulting in a three-minute stoppage. Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

The FAI will face disciplinary proceedings from UEFA following Ireland fans’ 33rd-minute tennis ball protest during Tuesday’s 1-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Georgia.

The game was held up for three minutes as tennis balls rained down on the field after 33 minutes of the first home game of Mick McCarthy’s second stint as manager.

Fewer than 100 tennis balls were thrown – mainly from the north stand – but it was some time before all the objects were removed from the pitch.

UEFA confirmed on Thursday morning that charges have been brought against the association and will be dealt with the UEFA disciplinary panel on May 16.

“Disciplinary proceedings have been opened following the European Qualifiers group D match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia (1-0), played on 26 March,” read the statement.

“Charges against Republic of Ireland:

“- Throwing of objects - Art. 16 (2) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations

“The case will be dealt with by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary on 16 May.”

Ireland had a free kick at the time of the disruption and, following the resumption of the game, Conor Hourihane scored the winning goal direct from the set-piece.

The timing of the protest was a nod to the suggestion of FAI CEO John Delaney – against whom the protests were directed – that Ireland be entered in the 2010 FIFA World Cup as the 33rd team.

That followed the infamous Thierry Henry handball in the second leg of the play-off in Paris, which resulted in William Gallas’ goal taking France to the finals.

Delaney has been embroiled over the past couple of weeks in controversy over an undeclared six-figure ‘loan’ to the association and his subsequent removal as CEO.

A statement issued on Saturday, shortly after the 1-0 victory away to Gibraltar – announced that Delaney would take over a newly-created role of ‘executive vice-president.’

The association and Delaney will appear before an Oireachtas panel to face questions on April 10th after FAI requests to move it forward were rejected when it failed to return correspondence.