On Saturday, 28 November, Maltese football fans witnessed one of the biggest cliffhangers in the country’s football history. A power blackout hit just as a Marsa FC player took a penalty kick against St. Andrew’s FC in a match from the BOV Challenge League. Marsa was leading 2-0, and a goal would have put them decisively in front. The player kicked the ball, the goalkeeper dived, and then nothing! All went black at the Centenary stadium. Did the ball go in or not? Nobody could tell. The referee Matthew De Gabriele called for a halt, and eventually called off the game.
This abrupt ending will rank as the biggest football cliffhanger in Malta’s history. It was also unique in timing because the ball was already in the air as the lights went out. You will not find any other such cliffhanger if you browse through thousands of football match clips and memes.
Imagine if you needed this penalty to win your bet! You can find the best Maltese betting sites here. Luckily Marsa FC is second on the league standings, and a win would have taken them to the top spot. The game will resume on January 13 and play from the 62nd minute.
The fans took it rather well because there was no one at fault. They even joked about it on social media. One fan likened it to a thrilling ending in an episode of the popular TV show EastEnders. Another joked that all that was needed was the wrestler Undertaker on the pitch.
A FIFA PlayStation game fan joked that it was like hitting the home button to prevent your opponent from taking the game. Sports betting fans wondered if someone had a mega bet on the game.
So, what becomes of bets wagered on such a game? Different sportsbooks have different terms and conditions on abandoned and interrupted matches. The common view is that any game that resumes under 24 hours is valid. This is regardless of the duration of the interruption. This is seen in many games played in extreme weather like heavy snowing or very heavy rainfall. All bets remain valid and as they were when a match resumes under 24 hours.
A match is considered abandoned when it does not resume under 24 hours. Bets that were to settle at the end of regular time are considered void. But bets whose outcomes had become clear remain valid and are settled. For example, if the match is stopped in the second half, bets on Total scores in the first half or leading team in the first half, are settled. All other unsettled bets are cancelled. The bettor’s stake is refunded if the bet was a single bet. In a multibet, the abandoned match is cancelled from the bet slip.
Why Are Matches Abandoned?
Bad weather is the leading cause of match abandonment. It is frequent in winter when heavy snowing reduces visibility. Players are often able to withstand heavy rainfall, but a match can be briefly interrupted if the rain reduces vision drastically, or makes the pitch’s condition too bad. Almost all matches interrupted by rain resume later.
Pitch invasions are common world-over and cause interruptions depending on the severity of the invasion. Many are harmless attention seekers who try to run across the pitch or score a goal for their favorite team. Some pets have also caused brief interruptions with their antics.
More serious pitch invasions occur when fan fighting spills over from the stands, like in this 2018 West Ham and Burnley game, but the match was still concluded. There are serious incidents when pitch invasion causes a complete abandonment of the match.
The most serious pitch invasion in recent times was when PAOK boss Ivan Savvides walked onto the pitch with a gun. He was walking to the pitch to protest a disallowed goal against bitter opponents AEK Athens. Although the gun was holstered, the invasion was considered a security threat serious enough to call off the game. PAOK forfeited the match and was fined three points.
Terrorism has also been a top concern for stadium security. In 2016, a match between Manchester United and Bournemouth was called off after a bomb scare.
Different leagues have different rules for match resumption. The English FA can decide to have a full rematch, for example, while Spanish La Liga games resume from the time of abandonment. In Malta, the game also resumes from stoppage time as will the game between Marsa FC and St. Andrews.