Ossett Albion in the Dock
The Northern Premier League Division One North club have been docked three points for fielding an ineligible player, but the club say they have been treated unfairly.
The case revolves around midfielder Adam Jones. He was suspended for the period of August 19th to August 28th due to a fine dating back to 2012, but Albion fielded him in a game against New Mills on August 25th, 2014. Ossett won this game 2-1, and under FA rules, the club will be deducted any points gained in matches where an ineligible player is played. Fair enough you might say.
However, this situation seems a little strange to me.
Firstly, the club say they were notified about the fine on August 30th, in a letter dated August 29th – the day after the player’s suspension ended. The club say this is their first knowledge of the player’s suspension, and nothing had come up when they did their checks whilst signing Mr Jones.
Albion contacted the FA about the matter immediately, and were informed on September 25th that no further action would be taken against player or club in view of the information provided by the club. But nearly a month later, on October 20th, the FA notified the club that they had breached rule 6.9 – the rule concerning the fielding of a player while ineligible. The hearing took place on November 19th, and the club rightly pleaded guilty to the charge, but also put forward their defence; namely that they were unaware of Mr Jones’ suspension, and were only notified by the FA after the suspension had ended. This, they said, was a fact agreed upon by both parties back at the start of the mess.
Even so, the club were found guilty, and fined £100 (suspended) and deducted the three points gained against New Mills with Adam Jones in their team. The club naturally appealed, again citing the circumstances surrounding the breach. The appeal was dismissed and the sanctions upheld, despite the FA acknowledging their own shortcomings in the matter.
In a statement on their website, the club said the following:
Throughout the process Ossett Albion have been fully co-operative and transparent with all parties concerned and immediately raised the issue with The FA as soon as it became aware. The Club feel very strongly that the penalties imposed are grossly unfair considering the exceptional circumstances surrounding the matter and are extremely disappointed with the decision at the FA hearing yesterday.
I have to admit, I understand both sides of the situation here. Yes, the club carried out the necessary checks, and therefore can feel aggrieved to lose the points, but at the end of the day, they did field an ineligible player, and they have only been sanctioned in accordance with the rules. Fair enough, the FA have acknowledged they made mistakes too, but unfortunately the punishment is just, and the appeal should have been rejected.
At the end of the day, even though the club say they carried out the checks, they could have easily missed the ban. After all, Adam Jones is not exactly an uncommon name. It is quite conceivable that they simply checked the wrong Adam Jones.
However, one thing baffles me:
Why was Adam Jones suspended for this nine day period for a fine from two years previously? He played in the first game of the season against Prescot Cables, so why was his suspension not in effect then? To me, that goes some way to corroborating Ossett Albion’s version of events; that his suspension was not in fact listed, and only came to light after he had been registered and played for the club. And did the player even know he was under suspension?
Unfortunately, I have been unable to ascertain why the suspension was imposed two years after the fine involved, but I can only assume he was not registered with a club during this time. However, that is merely conjecture on my part.
In the end, I feel sorry for the club, as they have a right to feel aggrieved, but from the FA’s point of view, they have acted correctly, and in accordance with their rules.
The deduction has sent Albion closer to the relegation zone, and with every club below them having plenty of games in hand, those three deducted points could prove crucial at the season’s end.