Registration, Suspension, Prosecution, Deduction, Animation, Resignation – The Lot Of The Club Official

30 01 2014

On the 17th of January it was alleged  that Peter Hoy played for Aberystwyth against Connah’s Quay (4th January) whilst he was suspended. Yesterday (29th January) Aber were docked three points for the offence. If you’ve ever wanted to see what an official judgment from the FAW looks like, here’s one;

Aberystwyth Town Football Club has accepted a charge under FAW Rule 38.1.6 for allegedly fielding a player whilst under suspension in their Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League match against Gap Connah’s Quay on 4th January 2014.

The club provided mitigating evidence to the Disciplinary Panel at a hearing, which was held in Cardiff on 28th January 2014.

Aberystwyth Town were fined £250.00 and deducted 3 (three) points from their Welsh Premier League First Phase record.

The Club have until Friday, 7th February 2014 to submit an appeal against the decision of the Disciplinary Panel.

Mae clwb Aberystwyth wedi derbyn cyhuddiad yn unol gyda Rheol 38.1.6 am chwarae chwaraewr oedd dan waharddiad yng ngornest UGC-Corbett Sports yng Nghei Connah ar y 4ydd o Ionawr.

Cyflwynodd y clwb eu hachos i Banel Disgyblu CBDC yng Nghaerdydd ar yr 28ain o Ionawr 2014.

Cafodd Aberystwyth ddirwy o £250 ac maent yn colli 3 phwynt o’u cyfanswm yng nghyfnod cyntaf y tymor yn Uwch Gynghrair Cymru.

Mae gan y clwb tan ddydd Gwener y 7fed o Chwefror i apelio yn erbyn y penderfyniad.

Even though this case appears to be of the open and shut variety – Peter was suspended when he played –  lots of people attached to Aber seemed shocked by the “severity” of the punishment.

@SionJames2 A big Thanku to tony bates @AberystwythTown for everything,did there best for club yet again,but have no hope against arrogant people

@daicaprice Well, I’ve had better days #blazers #tossers #kangaroocourt phone hasn’t stopped all day with support for @AberystwythTown

@petetwm  @SionJames2 @daicaprice @AberystwythTown @FAWales football in Wales will never progress when the National league is run like park football.

Judging by today’s statement, the club was also shocked;

“The Board, players, management and everyone at the Club are devastated by what is perceived as a Draconian punishment imposed by the FAW Disciplinary Panel.

As yet the Club has not received the Panel’s reasons for its decision but as it is manifestly obvious that the Panel did not take into account (a) the fact that the Club accepted it had made an administrative error, and took responsibility for it and (b) very significant mitigatory factors put forward at the hearing, the Club is seriously considering an appeal.

No further statement will be released until after a decision on the appeal is made. Aberystwyth Town Football Club takes its responsibility towards Welsh Football and the Welsh Premier League very seriously indeed and will have to consider in particular whether any further appeals are in the best interests of the League.”

Last night’s Aber-based tete-a-tete on twitter meant that I was already aware of Aber’s main gripe; Peter’s prospective suspension wasn’t listed in the closest suspensions list  (dated 3rd January) to the offending match.

If you’re so inclined you could conclude that Aber’s people have a point. If add we another detail; Airbus were also punished for fielding an ineligible player yesterday but were only docked a point, you can certainly see why people would be annoyed.

On the other hand there are several reasons why we shouldn’t add this story to the litany of clichés about the blazered buffoons of Welsh football.

Firstly, if clear mistakes on the field of play are punished by other teams why shouldn’t clear mistakes outside the field of play be punished? Only a fool would bitterly complain about the officials if their defender conceded a decisive last-minute penalty because they decided to pick up the ball in the area rather than hoofing the ball clear.

Secondly, the respective cases of Aber and Airbus are different. The difference in deduction is due to the fact that the sides only lost the points they had gained in the offending matches. The offences of the two clubs are also different in nature; Airbus fielded an incorrectly registered player whereas Aberystwyth fielded a suspended player, therefore Aber’s offence deserves a harsher punishment.

Thirdly, Aber’s recent history suggests they have form in this area. They were docked a point two years ago when Alex Samuel came on as a substitute even though he wasn’t correctly registered  .

Lastly, there’s a good chance that the burden of incompetence rests with Aber, especially as they readily it admit to this in today’s statement; “the fact that the Club accepted it had made an administrative error, and took responsibility for it”. The simple explanation is that Aber’s club officials neglected to keep up to date records.

Even if the FAW made a silly omission from their list Aber officials must still bare the responsibility for the mistake. The onus is on a club to check everything thoroughly and not to take risks. If someone had been keeping proper match records they would have known how many booking their players had earned. A clued up official would know that a player is nearing, or about to go on, a ban. A clued-up club official should know they could double-check matters with a short phone call to the right person in the FAW.

If the episode was solely due to the FAW’s natural incompetence why aren’t more clubs caught out in this manner? The Suspensions List is a document that every club playing in the Welsh system has, or can gain, access to so why is the first recent case of this type of offence? If the FAW are as incompetent as Aber claiming then Aber can’t have been only club that’s had a player omitted from the suspension list.

It is possible to avoid Aber’s mistake. At Bangor we often hear lines like “Oh “so and so” will be banned next week because of that bloody booking” and the origin of the Chinese whispers is obviously a club official that keeps abreast of team matters.

Sometimes you just have to accept that club officials make mistakes and move on. With this in mind a terrace wag of my acquaintance made a simple guide for Aber

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Please don’t let this apparent lack of sympathy disguise my humanity, I have a great deal sympathy for the officials of semi-pro clubs. I sympathise because these officials are generally selfless volunteers that have decided to embark on a labour of love for the community in which they live. Actually the officials are more than just noble volunteers; they work under the constant pressure of avoiding mistakes because mistakes in the administration of  semi-pro football, like forgetting signatures, or losing correspondence, cause umpteen problems. Can you imagine the headaches of doing this kind of  important, and often copious, voluntary admin work on top of a normal working week?

I can understand why the people that make such efforts become annoyed by the apparent pettiness of league officials or the needlessly convoluted player registration rules but sadly semi-pro football is a competitive world that needs to discourage cheating with rules.

It’s ironic that semi-pro football, or “amateur football” in old money, has prided itself on its sense of  humanity and Corinthian values, at least in comparison with professional football, yet the stringent regulation of player registration not only suggest that the idyllic image of semi-pro football is a sham they paint an extremely pessimistic view of human nature. The rules tell us of sharp semi-pro operators and ignoble club officials, they tell us of mystery players called “AN Other” and banned players knowingly signed under assumed names. They tell us that anything will be attempted.

You have to be sympathetic towards the noble club officials in such an environment, they have to battle the ignoble and cope with the metaphorical minefield of player registration rules. For example there are many examples of “International Clearance” causing problems (“International Clearance” is concerned with cross-border transfers). The phrase may conjure up images of exotic deals but it also plays a major part in transfers between the semi-pro clubs of England and Wales. Not having the right clearance causes problems.

Newtown were punished in November 2011 for fielding two players that had not received international clearance.

Marine‘s experience shows just how annoying the rules can be. They were caught out in May 2013 because they’d played Sean Doherty without the relevant international clearance, the problem for Marine is that they weren’t  even aware of this potential issue. It turned out that Marine weren’t the first club to sign Doherty after he’d left Colwyn Bay – he’d signed for AFC Liverpool in Dec 2012 and Droylsden shortly after that. – but they were the club that earned a 3 point deduction. This sticks in the craw because a reply to the unanswered e-mail they sent to the FAW would have sorted the problem. Sadly the FAW’s reply came after the offending match had taken place (Maybe Aber have a point!!). Here are some other views and information about this case.

A lack of clarity about the amount of a clubs a player has played for can also balls things up. FIFA’s rules place restrictions upon the amount of clubs that a player can play for in a season. When you add the fact that semi-pro players often flit from one club to another to the complications posed by cross border deals you can see the problems for WPL clubs.

Connah’s Quay were caught out by this last season when they played Lee Davey as a substitute, as Davey had previously played for Colwyn Bay and Conwy Borough that season they eventually suffered the deduction of a single point. Caernarfon Town were also caught out by this rule when they signed Andy Moran in 2009; they couldn’t play him because of the amount of clubs he’d already played for that season. If he’d have played for the Cofis he’d have earned the club a punishment.

Player ineligibility is an universal issue, it can cause problems in any semi-pro league, as Harrogate Town found in September 2013 when they played three ineligible players. The issue can even have serious consequences for the destination of league titles, As this article from twohundredpercent shows. The 2011 denouement of the Division One Central of the Zamaretto League certainly shows the effect of ineligible players.

Player ineligibility even rears its head  in the lunchtime 5-a-side leagues of sixth-form colleges. When I was part of a team in the mid 1990s I signed a female classmate, Sam, for the team, I was an equal-opportunity manager before it was fashionable. I relished the prospects for our team as Sam displayed all the deftness that I suspected in the warm up. Sadly two of my more misogynistic teammates reported Sam’s presence to the league official in charge of the scoreboard. He pronounced that Sam was unable to play that week. It can’t have been a coincidence that the two whistleblowers had been relegated to the bench because “a girl” was better at football than them.

To return to the main story. Aber might squeal about injustice but they should cheer up, they’ve only lost three points. They could have been Welshpool Town in the 1991-’92 season. Behold “The Billy Morris Affair ;

“It was 20 years ago this month that Welshpool Town Football Club hit the national news after losing 66 points and the Alliance league title for unknowingly fielding a player that was banned for life in 22 games.

 
The scandal rocked the amateur game and caused friction between local clubs and officials as accusation followed accusation and Welshpool carried the can for what appeared to be serious failings at the Football Association of Wales (FAW), English FA and the Belgian FA.
 
The revelation that Billy Morris, a diminutive striker who arrived on Welshpool’s doorstep from out of nowhere, was banned by the English FA completely stunned the club and denied one of its most talented ever sides a much coveted title.
 
The fall-out from the scandal was ugly but despite three appeals and top level intervention, Welshpool went from 11-point champions to bottom of the league with just one point.
 
Twenty years on and mywelshpool has caught up with the side’s manager Clive McNamee who says the memories are still fresh in his mind as he relives that tumultuous period for local football.
 
“Billy got in touch with us through the Welsh FA. He had just returned from working in Belgium. He contacted the Welsh FA to ask which Welsh border clubs were easiest for him to commute to from his home in Wolverhampton.
 
He was told to try Welshpool, Caersws and Flint. He thought Flint was too far and decided to try Caersws and Welshpool. I was desperate for a striker and persuaded him to sign for us without trying Caersws. It was no great deal that he intended to travel to Wales to play as at that time there was a lot of players travelling good distances to play in Welsh football. Billy was also working in the area so I suppose it added up.
 
I had no idea there was a problem until I had a telephone call from our President Mr Tegwyn Evans on the Friday afternoon prior to our penultimate game with Carno. He said he had been to a FA meeting in Cardiff and had heard there may be a problem with Billy’s registration.
 
I phoned Billy straight away and he assured me there was no problem and he had received International clearance from the English FA to play whilst he was in Belgium. I had gained the same from the Welsh FA prior to Billy playing his first game for us. Tegwyn asked me not to play Billy until we had got to the bottom of it all. I left him out of the Carno game and told the rest of the players he was working.
 
It turned out Billy had been banned sine die by the Staffordshire FA for an out of season misdemeanour after an indoor 5-a-side competition when he was manager of his local pub team.
 
Alan Evans was the secretary of the Welsh FA at the time and he apologised to Welshpool through his column in the Western Mail. He said the club should be exonerated from all blame but unfortunately must be held responsible and had to carry the can.
 
The league rule at the time read ‘any club playing an illegible player would be deducted 3 points’. That’s what we should have lost, not the 66 points that we eventually did. The next season the league changed the rule to read ‘any club playing an illegible player would be deducted 3 points for each game the player had played’, and Billy had his ban lifted and signed for Llansantffraid.
 
We appealed three times against the decision but to no avail. I am convinced the English FA had made a grave error in allowing Billy International clearance to play in Belgium and in turn the Welsh FA for allowing him to play for us. They then had to back track and stick together and we took the brunt as a club.
 
We had a lot of sympathy from clubs from all over the country and a solicitor from the Nantwich area was willing to fight our case for us and take it to the European Court of Arbitration. The Welshpool committee of the time decided against it. I always promised myself if I won the lottery I would re-open the case and clear the club’s name! I suppose I’ve mellowed over the years. I know we won the league fair and square and I think we would have faired pretty well in the new League of Wales. The team broke up shortly after that and we finished sixth the next season.
 
I know who reported us to the Welsh FA but it is water under the bridge now and not worth re-opening old wounds. It disappoints me to think that they let us go all season before deciding to report us. The week we won the league the Welsh FA received the letter.
 
Billy was a brilliant player and a great bloke and I still keep in touch with him occasionally. He went on to play for Newtown, Llansantffraid and Cwmbran. He later coached the youngsters at Wolves.”
 
Clive McNamee is currently the manager of Montgomery and has not lost the winning formula, taking his re-formed side from the Amateur League division two to the Spar Division One in three superb seasons.”

“……….Billy was a brilliant player and a great bloke and I still keep in touch with him occasionally. He went on to play for Newtown, Llansantffraid and Cwmbran. He later coached the youngsters at Wolves.”

Who’d be a semi-pro club official?

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