(qCOSTARICA SPORTS) While Costa Rica got a bad deal on Sunday with 1 non-existent penalty called, Panama got it from both ends — so to speak — when US born referee Mark Geiger awarded Mexico 2 “get out of jail free” penalty kicks in the Panamanians Wednesday match. While social media buzzed on Sunday and Monday, it absolutely exploded after the mid-week events.
As a result, both countries are drafting a proposal to ask for South American referees during the upcoming eliminatories, hoping to get a fair playing field. Panamanian players refused to continue playing in their match when Geiger blew the call with no official time remaining in the match. However, the federation representatives convinced them that the sanctions were too strong. According to CONCACAF rules, the federation would have been fined $30,000, which might have been worth the protest. However, they would also face possible monetary penalties for “damages” and expenses incurred. They would also forfeit the right to play in any future edition of the Gold Cup, and the tournament executive committee could ask for other tournament bans from FIFA.
Costa Rican players face possible sanctions for protests made on Sunday to referee Walter López. While Panamanian players could also face sanctions, which could be suspensions that would affect the players at the beginning of the qualifying rounds in November.
While the under the table “pay-per-broadcast” accusations gave CONCACAF a black eye, these allegations have yet to be fully outlined or proved in court, the organization of The Gold Cup and the officiating in the elimination phase has drawn even more perturbing questions. On the first hand, officials are accused of accepting bribes in order to award broadcast rights to national team matches to certain companies.
Now, the organizers of the Gold Cup freely admit to media that money comes first in the organization of the sites and referee assignments. The tournament venues are assigned according to expat populations living in certain cities. For example, Costa Rican has a relatively small pool of expats living in the US. One Tico interviewed in California before the Costa Rica vs. Jamaica match stated that about 5000 Ticos live in the area. While the stadium near Los Angeles filled to capacity for the El Salvador vs. Canada match that followed.
Organizers stated that the tournament is designed to attract foreign residents of the US that may not have the chance to see their national team play otherwise. The team groupings and matches are assigned to venues that will maximize revenues. They also stated that the tournament is organized from the beginning to favor a US vs. Mexico final. Assuming that neither team finishes 3rd in their group, they can never meet in the elimination rounds, except for the final match.
And obviously the tournament is only played on US soil, which highly favors both the USA and Mexico All-stars in the possible attendance for any other matchup. But in addition, the referees are named by the tournament committee, instead of the CONCACAF Refereeing Commission, which names referees for any other matches played in the area.
All of the above means that organizers cannot dispel suspicions that referees are influenced in some way to call matches in favor of the USA and Mexico teams. Either they receive bonuses, bribes or instructions to make sure that these teams pass, the longer they are in the tournament, the more money organizers earn. If the incentives are not there, then at a minimum organizers are naming bad referees to call the quarter-final and semifinal matches, bad referees are influenced by the crowd and the USA and Mexico teams would gain a significant advantage in this fashion, assuring that organizers can line their pockets with the maximum ticket sales.
In fact there are criticisms of decisions by 3 referees during the cup. Mark Geiger blew a non-existent penalty in favor of Brazil in 2012 when he refereed a Columbia vs. Brazil friendly in New Jersey. Geiger also acted in the 2014 World Cup, and was criticized for not ejecting French player Blaise Matuidi, after a foul that lef Nigerian player Ogeny Onazi with a broken leg.
Walter López also acted against Costa Rica in 2012, when he annulled a legitimate goal by Oscar Rojas in a match against El Salvador. While Joel Aguilar was the referee that allowed the famous “Blizzard Game” to continue, after the US was leading 1-0 in conditions that made a Costa Rican tie impossible. Aguilar is a marked man in El Salvador for consist failures in the local tournament, and is also not welcome in Panama after a deficient performance in this year’s Gold Cup in their group phase match against Honduras.
Article by iNews.co.cr