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Can a Football Match Be Replayed?

You may have read our article on cup replays in football – or you might just have heard about the furore of the Football Association announcing their decision to scrap replays from the FA Cup. But in this article, we’re looking at a similar but different subject (if that makes sense): can the standard football match, be it in the league or cup, be replayed?

Of course, we’re not talking about games that end in a draw – and so a replay is used to separate the two sides, we’re talking about contests in which something happens on the pitch that forces the game to be replayed.

One example, although unlikely, could come from the storm surrounding Nottingham Forest’s loss to Everton in April – Forest adamant that a Luton Town fan, Stuart Attwell, should not have been appointed as the VAR official for their game given the nature of the Premier League relegation battle.

As it transpired, there were at least three incidents in the match at Goodison Park that VAR took a good look at – before eventually ruling on the side of Everton. Forest replied with an extraordinary outburst on social media.

Of the ‘options’ detailed in Forest’s X post, you wonder if a replayed match was one of the avenues they were pursuing. Meanwhile, on the very same weekend, Real Madrid beat Barcelona to all but seal another La Liga title. But the game was marred by a bizarre incident in which Barca appeared to have scored through Lamine Yamal – a goal that would have put them 3-2 up.

Real goalkeeper, Andriy Lunin, appeared to have saved the shot while stood behind the line, but Spanish football does not use goal-line technology – and with match officials and VAR unable to say with certainty that the ball had indeed crossed the line, the ‘goal’ did not stand.

Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, came out after the match and intimated that he was considering legal action, while claiming that he and the club ‘do not discount requesting that the game to be replayed.’ But is there any legal mechanism via which a football match can be replayed?

Can a Football Match Be Replayed Due to VAR Error?

As VAR is still a relatively new technology in football, there isn’t a great deal of precedent in this area. However, there has been one incidence in which a game has been replayed due to a VAR error. Well, it was meant to be, anyway. Over in Belgium, Anderlecht were taking on Genk back in December 2023. Genk were awarded a penalty, which was saved by former Leicester City goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel. However, Genk scored from the rebound – or so they thought.

But it was adjudged by VAR that Yira Sor had encroached into the penalty area before slotting home the rebound, and so the goal was disallowed. Yet the VAR assessment had missed the encroachment by two Anderlecht players as well – which should have meant that the penalty was retaken, as per IFAB rules.

Genk appealed the result to the Belgian FA and won, with the authority agreeing that the match should be replayed. However, Bas – the Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport – then got involved. They decided that the result should stand and the game would not be replayed after all.

Can a Football Match Be Replayed Due to an Ineligible Player?

Chelsea FC goalie reaching for ball
Cosmin Iftode / Bigstockphoto.com

There has been examples of games being replayed because one of the teams involved has fielded an ineligible player. When it’s judged that the team knowingly fielded an ineligible player, it’s generally held that they forfeit the games in which the individual played. However, when the error is accidental – or has been a consequence of a mistake of a Football Association administrative employee – the game can be replayed.

It happened during a first round FA Cup tie between Forest Green Rovers and Scarborough Athletic in 2023. A Forest Green player, on loan, had been granted permission by his parent club to play games in the competition, however this had not been communicated to the Football Association. Chesterfield FC, meanwhile, have been forced to replay not one but two FA Cup ties due to fielding an ineligible player – against Stockport County and MK Dons.

Can a Football Match Be Replayed Due to a Player Being Injured?

There have been instances in which football games have been halted because a player has suffered a serious injury – the circumstances around it being so traumatic that the game has been waved off. However, in this case the match is typically abandoned – to be resumed at a later date, and starting from the minute in which the injury occurred.

Interestingly, there have been examples of games being replayed when a player has been injured by a member of the crowd. These days, football authorities would take short shrift of such a thing, with the affected team likely to be handed an automatic win instead.

But that hasn’t always been the case, and in one FA Cup tie back in the 1980s the game was forced to be replayed after a goalkeeper was struck by a missile thrown from the crowd. Burton Albion’s Paul Evans was downed by a foreign object thrown from the end housing Leicester City’s supporters at the neutral Baseball Ground.

The game continued with Evans in the Burton goal – Leicester running out 6-1 winners. However, punishment was to come, with the FA deciding that the game be replayed behind closed doors, forcing Neil Warnock – the then part-time Burton Albion manager – to reschedule a number of appointments in his work as a professional chiropodist.