POINTS DEDUCTION: RESPONSE TO LEE,LEGAL ACTION ETC
SUPPORTERS TRUSTS RESPOND TO BRIAN LEE INTERVIEWS, 17 April 2009
Points deductions in the Football Conference - Response to Brian Lee's interviews
The supporters' trusts of Oxford United and Mansfield Town and the supporters' club of Bognor Regis Town wish to respond to interviews given by Conference Chairman Brian Lee at the weekend, with regard to the points deductions issue and Conference procedures this season.
We are pleased that Mr Lee has appeared to retract the claim that the Conference has received 'unwarranted abuse' from supporters' trusts. This unjustified comment was a distraction from the real issues but we are disappointed that he feels there is no need to apologise.
Brian Lee's interview confirmed, astonishingly, that no written report of the Conference 'review of organisation and procedures' exists, save for the statement of March 30th. This statement, issued on the Conference website, exonerated the Conference from any shortcomings.
This unreported review process is flawed to the point where it lacks all credibility. Neither terms of reference, gathered evidence, nor any recommendations appear to have been assembled formally. With no report there is nothing to take forward and no lessons to learn for the future. Supporters of all Conference clubs deserve more than this vapid response. Many questions remain unanswered and phrases such as 'tightening up' of procedures have been used, but Mr Lee denies that this amounts to changes of procedures. We feel that this is surely playing with words and this 'tightening up' is evidence that the Conference's previous administration procedures were flawed.
The Conference may have enforced the rules to the letter, but when random checks mean that administrative procedures can have as great a say in determining penalties as the rules themselves, this no longer seems in keeping with the spirit of these rules. Four clubs have had their prospects of promotion or avoiding relegation adversely affected by this experience. Many supporters feel that the league competition, in which they invest substantial time and money, has been severely devalued as a direct result.
We are dismayed that the Conference continues to avoid answering the questions posed by both the supporters' trusts and the football clubs. Being blunt, it is a disrespectful and short-sighted approach.
It does not appear useful to engage directly with the Conference further on this issue. We are awaiting a response from the Football Association to a recent letter, which asks them to take a fresh look at this issue. We hope to hear back from the FA in the near future and once again urge them to undertake an independent review of this situation as soon as possible.
Trevor Lambert, Martin Shaw & Ian Guppy
Coverage of the statement in the Non-League Paper:
Histon escape points deduction
Non-League Paper, 19 Apr 09:
Histon have escaped a points deduction despite being found guilty of fielding an ineligible player.
Ben Coker appeared as a substitute in the 2-1 Blue Square Premier win at Rushden on August 25, but did not have international clearance.
The Football Association discovered the discrepancy last month and referred it to the Conference, who punished the offence with a fine when they met on Thursday.
Conference general manager Dennis Strudwick told The NLP: "There is discretion allowed for international clearance and when a player comes on as a substitute. The club were found guilty of playing an ineligible player and were treated consistently with the way other clubs have been this season".
Coker now plays for BGB Midlands club Bury Town, having turned out for Barton Rovers since his only run out for the Stutes.
In other ineligiblility cases this season, Oxford United, Crawly Town, eventually, and Bognor Regis were deducted points gained only in matches the players started.
21 April 2009: The supporters' trusts of Oxford United and Mansfield Town and the supporters' club of Bognor Regis Town ask the following to the FA:
"News came at the weekend that Histon had fielded an unregistered player requiring international clearance, and had subsequently been fined. At the very least, this casts doubt on the previous statements from the Football Conference that 64 out of 68 clubs had no registration irregularities, and underlines, in our view, the need for an external review."
Subsequent reply from the FA:
Conference finally admit: We could have handled it better
Bognor Regis Observer, 22 April 2009, by Steve Bone
They took 93 days to tell the Rocks they were playing an unregistered player – and 97 days to answer questions about why.
But finally, the boss of the Conference has spoken to the Observer about the points deduction which has angered fans and club officials and relegated the Rocks much sooner than they would have gone down.
The Conference docked the Rocks seven points in January – the number gained in games defender Sam Pearce (pictured right) had played while he was unregistered.
The club accept it was their responsibility to register him initially, but don't understand why it took from August, when Pearce first played, to late November for the league to alert them.
Now Conference chairman Brian Lee has admitted for the first time the Conference could have handled things better.
Lee has also confirmed the league have 'improved' their system for checking player registrations since their reliance on the spot-check procedures that left the Rocks and three other clubs unaware they were breaking the rules.
But he claimed they would have been improving it anyway.
The Observer was able to quiz Lee for 45 minutes on Monday – 97 days after we had first put questions to the league over the fiasco.
Lee said the Conference had wanted a 'quicker and more club-orientated' system for player registrations and this was now being implemented.
He said the system of spot-checks had not been approved by the Conference board, but by staff.
Asked if clubs knew the league had started relying on spot checks, he said: "I have no idea."
In fact, we can answer that for him. Bognor insist clubs were not told, but believed every player was being checked – as is common from the Premier League down to the Chichester & West Sussex Sunday League.
Lee said league staff had told him Pearce's paperwork had not arrived at the office.
When asked in an earlier radio interview if player registrations could have gone missing after arriving at league HQ, he had said: "Anything is possible."
Asked if it was right it took 93 days to discover Pearce was not registered, Lee agreed it could have been better.
He added: "Are we doing anything about it? Yes. We are trying to improve..."
Asked if the Conference should take some of the blame for what had happened to the Rocks, he questioned why 'blame' was being talked about.
He would not say if he knew of any other leagues, higher or lower than the Conference, who relied on spot checks on registrations.
He said he felt for the clubs who had lost points, and said if the league's rules needed to be changed, clubs could propose it.
Asked about a new case of a club fielding an ineligible player, Histon of the Conference premier, who have been fined and not deducted points for a player who did not have international clearance, he said: "Each and every case is judged on its merits."
This appears to conflict with statements by the Conference that the league was bound by 'the rules' in dealing with such cases.
Lee also admitted that in the case of clubs having to satisfy the league their grounds were up to scratch by a deadline, 'delays in paperwork' could be taken into account.
This could come into play in the case of Hampton & Richmond, who are going for promotion from the Conference South but are believed to be still trying to satisfy ground-grade chiefs over their stadium.
But Bognor received no leniency when they sent off Pearce's papers as soon as they were told he was not registered.
Lee said he had contacted the FA about the registratrions issue but they were happy with the Conference's actions.
Our final question was: Could the Conference have handled this better?
When asked this repeatedly by Radio Oxford, Lee's reply was: "I think Oxford could have handled it better."
His reply to us was: "We might have done it better."
Fans of the Rocks, Oxford, Mansfield and Crawley, who have been hit in the same way, remain furious the league have punished their teams for a system that was inadequate.
Supporters' leaders have written to FA chairman Lord Triesman asking the governing body to hold an inquiry into the Conference's procedures.
Stags could take legal action against BSP
CHAD.co.uk, 16 April 2009 , By John Lomas
MANSFIELD Town may yet take legal action against the Blue Square Premier League after being unhappy with the league's recent lack of response to burning questions over the registrations row that saw Stags as one of four clubs deducted points.
Chairman Andy Perry is not battling for the four points to be returned but to make sure the same scrutiny has been applied to every club for the same period.
Said Perry "Having read the Non-League Paper interview with Brian Lee (Conference chairman) and heard him on BBC Radio Oxford I believe his comments are still inconclusive. The questions have not actually been answered.
"I am still awaiting a response to a letter I sent him asking him to clarify things. I have still had no confirmation how team sheets are now being checked or if this has been backdated to the start of the season.
"Along with the Oxford chairman, if we don't hear anything, we feel next week may be a turning point and our next step may be taking legal advice.
"The format of the team sheets has certainly changed and there is more to fill in. We know it is a procedure change and not a rule change, but it is procedures that make the rules work and we feel it is unfair on ourselves.
"I still totally agree we are responsible for registering players correctly. But what is the Conference's role if the sheets have not been checked 100 per cent of the time all season?"
Stags and Oxford fans came in for criticism from the BSP for continuing their fight and voicing their anger, but Perry retorted: "If it wasn't for the supporters then there wouldn't be any football and I think the comments have been very patronising towards fans. The league seem very blase - saying it's your fault and nothing to do with us."
SUPPORTERS TRUSTS RESPOND TO BRIAN LEE INTERVIEWS, PERRY: STAGS COULD TAKE LEGAL ACTION, LEE: WE COULD HAVE HANDLED IT BETTER.
BRIAN LEE INTERVIEWS.
CONFERENCE STILL NOT ANSWERING QUESTIONS.
CONFERENCE REPORT HAS NO ANSWERS.
SUPPORTERS TRUSTS WRITE TO THE FA
PERRY: POINTS DEDUCTION STILL RANKLES
YOU STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!
SUPPORTERS TRUSTS LETTER TO CONFERENCE AND FA.
CONFERENCE PR MAN SAYS NOTHING ON BBC NON-LEAGUE SHOW.
PETITION: OVER 5000 SIGNATURES. SFU SAYS THANK YOU.
SIGN PETITION: RETURN THE DEDUCTED POINTS.
FOOTBALL CONFERENCE AGREES INTERNAL REVIEW.
YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING.
Latest | May 2009