There aren’t many things worse than a refereeing howler.
Every football supporter can recall a decision that’s gone against them thanks to nothing else other than a mistake by the man in the middle.
Ireland fans still haven’t forgiven Martin Hansson and his team for failing to spot Thierry Henry’s handball which saw them miss out on a place at the 2010 World Cup finals.
And there are countless other decisions that were just flat out wrong.
Fans are directing their anger towards VAR more often these days but the pleasure and delight that they missed out on due a referee still hurts deeply.
FourFourTwo have now listed the 30 worst refereeing decisions of all-time and we’re extremely sorry if your side came off worse with any of these calls.
1. Referee helps out struggling team
In 2001, Brian Savill was handed a seven-week ban by the FA after he helped out lowly Wimpole in their 20-2 Great Bromley Cup defeat to Earls Colnes reserves.
“The ball came over from a corner, the Wimpole forward headed it and it came to me,” Savill told BBC Radio Five Live. “I chested it down, or armed it down, and the ball bounced up and I just volleyed it into the net.”
Savill resigned as a result of his punishment.
2. Gazza gets booked for having fun
Paul Gascoigne liked to have fun on the football pitch and when referee Dougie Smith dropped his yellow card on the pitch, the then-Rangers midfielder decided to pick it up and jokingly book the official.
Smith wasn’t impressed and showed Gazza the yellow card.
3. Nigeria denied in 2000 AFCON final
Victor Ikpeba thought he had scored for Nigeria in the shootout of the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations but referee Mourad Daami deemed the ball didn’t cross the line after hitting the crossbar, even though it clearly did.
Nigeria would go on to lose 4-3.
4. Clueless referee
Dundee United’s Paddy Connolly was denied a hat-trick when he drilled a shot into the back of the net, but the ball hit the stanchion and came back onto the pitch.
A Partick Thistle defender handed the ball to the goalkeeper and the referee carried on as usual. So no goal, and no penalty for handball.
5. Uruguay’s home advantage
In the very first World Cup, hosts Uruguay were given a bit of help – by the police.
In their semi-final game against Yugoslavia, the ball went out of play when a policeman at the side of the pitch knocked it back onto the field.
The referee didn’t see anything and Peregrino Anselmo raced through to make it 2-1 to Uruguay.
6. Did Hurst’s shot cross the line?
Did Geoff Hurst’s strike for England in the 1966 World Cup final actually cross the line?
Germany certainly didn’t think so, and TV replays were inconclusive.
Sky Sports recently tried to prove that the ball crossed the line but there isn’t a definitive answer.
7. Coventry saved by stanchion
Crystal Palace’s Clive Allen fired a shot into the top corner but the ball was hit so hard that it struck the stanchion holding the net up and rebounded back onto the pitch.
The referee played on and Palace would lose 1-0 to Coventry.
8. Thatcher avoids red…somehow
We’re still unsure how Manchester City’s Ben Thatcher wasn’t sent off for smashing Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes in the face with his elbow in 2006.
Mendes was knocked out and required oxygen, but Thatcher was only shown a yellow card. The FA corrected the mistake by later banning him for eight games.
9. Reading’s ‘ghost goal’
In 2008, referee Stuart Attwell gave a goal to Reading despite the ball passing wide of Watford’s net.
Reading players didn’t even appeal for a goal. Quite what Attwell’s assistant saw remains a mystery.
10. Marriner confuses Oxlade-Chamberlain with Gibbs
However, referee Andre Marriner showed Kieran Gibbs a red card in a case of mistaken identity.
Arsenal would go on to lose 6-0 in Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge.
11. Lampard’s World Cup goal ruled out
England thought they had levelled against Germany in the knockout round of the 2010 World Cup when Frank Lampard’s strike came down off the bar and over the line.
The ball bounced back, though, and the linesman incorrectly ruled that the ball hadn’t crossed the line.
England fans haven’t forgotten.
12. Brazil celebrations cut short
Welsh referee Clive Thomas awarded Brazil a corner at the 1978 World Cup but didn’t give them time to complete it, blowing the whistle for full-time as soon as the corner was taken.
Brazil scored from the corner but their protests fell on deaf ears.
13. Rugby tackle goes unpunished
Brazil goalkeeper Carlos got away with a tackle that doesn’t belong in football.
He fouled France’s Bruno Bellone when through on goal but referee Ioan Igna waved play on.
14. Nuremberg relegated due to ghost goal
Nuremberg were relegated from the Bundesliga in part due to a goal that should never have counted.
Bayern Munich’s Thomas Helmer hit a backheel towards goal but the ball bounced wide.
However, linesman Jorg Jablonski inexplicably awarded a goal and Nuremberg were beaten 2-1.
They were eventually relegated on goal difference. Ouch.
15. Leicester’s cup hopes ruined by ‘maggot’
Chelsea and Leicester’s 1997 FA Cup fifth round replay was headed for penalties until referee Mike Reed gave the Blues a controversial spot-kick late on.
Erland Johnsen went down under a soft challenge, leading Danny Baker to complain on BBC Radio Five Live: “It was scandalous, an absolute scandal … football has a maggot at its golden core, and that maggot is referees.”
16. The ‘Hand of God’
If this list was ranked, Diego Maradona’s infamous handball at the 1986 World Cup would be No.1.
The Argentinian’s handball was missed by Tunisian official Ali Bin Nasser, who later blamed a haemorrhoid treatment for affecting his sight and causing him to miss it.
17. Drunk referee
This story is wild.
In the third game of his refereeing career, Wolf-Dieter Ahlenfelder tried to blow the whistle for half-time during a 1975 game between Werder Bremen and Hannover after just 32 minutes of play.
The linesman intervened but Ahlenfelder only carried on until 43 minutes 30 seconds before sending the players in.
He later admitted to getting drunk on beer and schnapps before the game, saying: “We are men, we don’t drink Fanta.”
18. Carroll avoids embarrassment
Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes stunned Old Trafford in 2005 with a late long-range effort that Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll fumbled.
He scrambled to try to prevent the ball from crossing the line but was unsuccessful in his attempts to do so.
According to everyone but official Rob Lewis, that is.
Lewis didn’t think the ball had crossed the line and played on.
“There was nothing I could have done differently apart from run faster than Linford Christie,” he said.
19. Poll angers Everton fans in the derby
Everton thought they had recorded a memorable victory in the Merseyside derby against Liverpool in 2000 – but Graham Poll ruined everything.
Late on in the match, Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld booted a free-kick into Don Hutchinson’s back and the ball bounced into the net.
Everton were denied a 1-0 win, though, because Poll said he’d already blown for full-time, despite some injury time remaining on the clock.
20. Byron Moreno upsets Italy
Ecuadorian ref Byron Moreno was probably banned from entering Italy after a series of catastrophic errors saw them knocked out of the 2002 World Cup by South Korea.
Moreno gave South Korea a soft penalty, showed Hwang Sun-hong a yellow card for a challenge that he later confessed deserved a red, missed an elbow to the face of Alessandro Del Piero inside the box and a boot on Paolo Maldini’s head, sent off Francesco Totti for diving when he should have awarded a penalty, and ruled out Damiano Tommasi’s would-be golden goal in extra-time for offside.
21. Nani’s tap-in
In 2010, Man United’s Nani scored one of the most bizarre goals in Premier League history.
The Portuguese winger went down under a challenge inside the penalty box and collected the ball with his hand.
However, his appeals for a penalty were ignored and referee Mark Clattenburg played on.
Tottenham ‘keeper Heurelho Gomes thought he had a free-kick due to Nani’s handball but Clattenburg hadn’t actually awarded it. Nani got up, tapped the ball in and the goal was allowed to stand.
22. Referee scores late winner in Turkey
A referee has done his job if he’s not spoken about immediately after the game but in Turkey in 1986, a referee actually found his name on the scoresheet.
Besiktas were drawing 0-0 away to Ankaragucu when a wayward shot by the hosts hit referee Ahmet Akcay in the face and went in.
The official allowed the goal to stand and Besiktas would go on to finish the season one point behind champions Galatasaray. Painful.
23. Spain stunned by South Korea
Spain were furious with Gamal Al-Ghandour after the referee ruled out two La Roja goals in their defeat to South Korea at the 2002 World Cup.
24. Ball boy gets the goal
Heard the one about the ball boy scoring?
Santacruzense stole a 1-1 draw against Atletico Sorocaba thanks to a last-minute equaliser from a ball boy.
The cheeky lad collected a wayward shot and tapped the ball into the back of the net, with the refereeing allowed it to stand.
Unsurprisingly, the official was suspended.
25. Chelsea rage at Tom Henning Ovrebo
Chelsea were denied a place in the 2009 Champions League final by Norwegian official Tom Henning Ovrebo, who ignored four separate penalty shouts in the second leg of their tie against Barcelona.
“It was not my best day really,” Ovrebo later admitted to Marca, although it was far too late.
“Some days you are not at the level you should be. I can’t be proud of that performance.”
26. Schumacher gets away with blatant red
Germany goalkeeper Harold Schumacher got away with a ‘tackle’ on Patrick Battiston at the 1982 World Cup that left the French player unconscious and with two missing teeth, three cracked ribs and damaged vertebrae.
The referee didn’t even give a foul.
27. Collina gets it wrong
Pierluigi Collina is the most iconic referee in football history but he upset Everton in 2005.
The Italian referee ruled out Duncan Ferguson’s goal in a Champions League playoff against Villarreal, claiming Marcus Bent had committed a foul.
However, it looked like the striker was having his shirt pulled at the time.
28. Duisberg benefit from ghost goal
In 2010, Duisberg midfielder Christian Tiffert scored a goal that never crossed the line.
His long-range screamer hit the bar and came back onto the pitch, but referee Marco Fritz and his assistants decided to give a goal.
29. Simunic receives three bookings
Graham Poll makes his second appearance on the list.
At the 2006 World Cup, the English official managed to show Croatia’s Josip Simunic not two but three yellow cards before sending him off.
Poll was sent home from the tournament shortly afterwards.
30. Thierry Henry breaks Irish hearts
Ireland were in with a real chance of reaching the 2010 World Cup.
They were in a playoff with France when the second leg entered extra-time.
However, their hopes of reaching the finals went up in smoke when Thierry Henry controlled the ball with his hand to set up William Gallas’ winner.
Ireland still hadn’t forgotten.
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