Witton Albion Football Club has confirmed that the club will be deducted three points for fielding an ineligible playeragainst Stocksbridge Park Steels on February 11th.
The penalty relates to the club’s failure to re-register Tolani Omatola in time for this fixture. The player has been on a youth loan from Tranmere Rovers, which requires the player to be re-registered with both the Football Association and Northern Premier League every month.
Although correctly re-registered in previous months, on this occasion the required written acknowledgement from the FA and NPL was not obtained before the match took place, rule 6.4.1 thereby being breached. The error emerged within 24 hours and manager Carl Macaulay was immediately informed.
The secretary admitted responsibility for the mistake andalthough detailed mitigating circumstances were submitted to the FA, the club was subsequently found guilty. The secretary tendered her resignation, which was reluctantly accepted by the board, and a replacement was appointed in early March.
Once advised of the FA’s decision, and in accordance with FA standardised rules, on 24th March the club was then charged by the league under rule 6.9 – fielding an ineligible player, to which the club pleaded guilty but provided written observations.
At a hearing on Wednesday 12th April a panel imposed the sanction that the three points gained in the Stockbridge vs Witton Albion fixture be deducted from our playing recordand a £100 fine levied. This decision is consistent with those imposed following registrations-related errors by other NPL clubs.
Although the error was quickly discovered, the club decidedin consultation with the manager not to make any public announcement until any sanction was confirmed to avoid diverting focus away from on-field results. Having been notified of the decision on 12th April the club decided to wait until after the Stamford and Northwich matches before making a public statement. The players were informed after today’s derby against Vics.
“The deduction is obviously a blow to everyone at the club and the board would like to wholeheartedly apologise to the players and supporters. Football administration is an increasingly challenging job in which mistakes are punished, especially at this level, and this situation shows what happens when errors arise. We play by the same rules as every other club so we have to take the penalties on the chin although we are all frustrated that it takes so long for these cases to be settled” said chairman Mark Harris.
“However we cannot allow this setback to define what has been an excellent season which may still end with promotion. With that in mind the club has obtained approval from the Northern Premier League to offer free admission to all fans for Saturday’s game against Sheffield. We hope that this will encourage as many local people as possible to roar the team on and set things up for the play-off semi-final on Tuesday.”