The most controversial sporting moments of 2017

The stories that got sports fans talking this year

BY Jason Brennan 07:45 Tuesday 26 December 2017, 7:45 26 Dec 2017


The idea of video assistant referees, instant replays, goal line technology, and retrospective decisions look like the way of the future as we attempt to make sure that the results of sporting contests can be decided fairly.

Now, that seems like a good idea, on paper. However, in reality we're all suckers for a bad decision, a robbery, a mistake by a ref or an unnoticed foul. 

If we weren't we wouldn't have put this list together, and you wouldn't have clicked into it. With that said, here's our list of some of 2017 most controversial sporting moments and decisions.

The Penalty That Never Was

Despite conceding 33 shots on their goal over the two-legged World Cup qualification games with Switzerland, Northern Ireland managed to keep all of those efforts out of the back of their net.

The only problem was that there was a 34th shot, a penalty given by referee Ovidiu Hategan after he saw a handball by the North's Corey Evans. Turns out he was the only person on the field, in the stadium, and watching on TV who saw the handball.

Photo credit: ©INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry 

Ricardo Rodriguez stepped up to slot away the penalty, neither side managed to score in the return leg, so the tie (and Northern Ireland's hope of making the World Cup) was ended with one shocking decision.

On a side note, Swiss centre-half Fabian Schar should have received his marching orders earlier in the game for a studs up assault on Stuart Dallas, so Micheal O'Neill's side certainly had a few reasons to feel aggrieved from that night.

It's a Hell of a Drug

The list would carry you into the New Year if we included all doping and drug scandals that have hit the sporting world in 2017, so instead we've decided to talk about Icarus.

The documentary's intended purpose would have sent minor ripples through the cycling world given the sport's recent history of doping allegations, but Icarus instead shook the world of Olympic athletes and the Russia Sporting Council.

Filmmaker Bryan Fogel unearthed the story of a widescale, systematic state-sponsored doping scheme in Russia, and the intricacies of the plot to evade doping sanctions during the 2014 Winter Sochi Olympics. 

An incredible watch if you haven't got around to it yet (yes it's on Netflix), and if you're on the hunt for more sporting docs check out our list of the best efforts of 2017

Decisions, decisions, decisions 

OMFG!!!!!!!!! That is HORRIBLE!!! That why u can't leave it to these judges!!!!!!!

— Dana White (@danawhite) August 9, 2015

That tweet is as true in 2017 as it was two years previous. You simply can't leave a decision to the judges and expect a fair outcome, be it boxing or mma.

Of course that's not to say that every decision in combat sports is wrong, but every year there's a few that raise more than a couple of eyebrows, they're just rarely in such high-profile contests. 

The 2017 entries include Manny Pacquaio losing his WBO Welterwight title to James Horn in Brisbane despite landing almost twice as many shots as the Australian, while the bout between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez saw the judges offer up a draw by way of a 113–115 (Golovkin), 114–114, 118–110 (Alvarez) scorecard.

Notably, Adalaide Byrd (118-110) scored the five rounds that the other two judges agreed were Golovkin's for the Mexican, and has since stepped down from officiating major fights.

The draw marked the first time in the Ukrainian's career that he didn't have his hand raised in victory, though rumours have surfaced of a rematch, with May 5th in Las Vegas being mooted as a potential date.

Diarmuid Connolly's suspension

The Dublin forward managed to be the focus of yet another giant news story in the GAA this year when the St. Vincents man was handed a 12-week ban for a "minor physical interference" on the field, which in reality amounted to a slight push.

It was handbags stuff, and the kind of thing that happens a number of times during most games and goes without punishment. The only difference was this time Connolly did it to an official, an offence which incurs a minimum penalty of a "12 week suspension in all codes and levels" of the game.

The incident occurred during Dublin's win over Carlow in the Leinster quarter-final, and Connolly remained sidelined for the rest of the season, only returning to come off the bench for the final two games of Dublin's successful All-Ireland campaign.

Depending on your allegiances you may look at the ban as incredibly soft and a punishment that didn't fit the crime, or you read the rules of the game and saw that the letter of the law couldn't possibly be clearer. So possibly not controversial in the actual definition of the word, but it was a story you couldn't get away from until, well, his return.

The game that just wouldn't end

Samson Lee, the Welsh prop who entered the game as a sub, was shown a yellow card in injury time, yet still managed to serve the suspension, re-enter play, then take part in the final eight minutes of the game.

That's how long the game between Wales and France in the Six Nations went on for, with the winning score coming via a Damian Chouly try on the stroke of 100 minutes.

As the clock struck 80 minutes Wales led by five points. Flash forward 20 minutes (unfortunately that option wasn't available during the live game) and there had been accusations off a bite on Welsh wing George North, a conveniently timed injury to a French prop which allowed the re-entry of arguably their best scrummager, Rabah Slimani, before...wait. The game was long enough the first time around.

You remember, now forget it, forever.

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