THE Football Association has said Northwich Victoria were right to contest a decision by the Northern Premier League to deduct nine points from their total.
Vics won an appeal earlier this month, during which officials criticised the league for not interpreting its own rules properly.
However they insist a punishment for picking Mason Springthorpe when he was not registered is the right one because it is the club’s responsibility to check that players are eligible.
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The goalkeeper, signed on loan from Telford in September, played in four First Division One North fixtures – three of which ended in victory – before the FA noticed they had no record of the temporary transfer.
Indeed only a phone call from Vics’ secretary Dave Thomas, to enquire whether the 21-year-old could feature in an FA Trophy tie the following day, prompted them to check.
By then the net-minder had played six games for Northwich, including two in the FA Cup.
“The club was at fault because it had not received the approval of the FA before allowing the player to participate in four [league] matches,” reads a document published by the FA in which the appeal board members explain how they reached a decision.
“It is the club which is liable.”
Vics, represented at the hearing in Manchester by Graham Bean, did not contest the original charge of fielding an ineligible player.
Instead they argued a nine-point deduction is too harsh, and the league could have been flexible – something permitted by the relevant rule – in what they say were ‘unusual’ circumstances.
The appeal board, made up of three men, agreed.
“The league misdirected itself,” they wrote.
“It should have considered whether or not to exercise its discretion.”
And it is there that their sympathy for Northwich ended.
They added: “We took this to be a significant matter, and that it was entirely right to deduct points.”
However they said to replay the matches against Ossett Albion, Farsley and Droylsden from which Vics collected maximum points would not be fair.
Their counterparts on an FA Cup committee did though order the club to play again a second qualifying round tie in October as part of their punishment for the same offence.
In a statement last week, Vics said they plan now to seek arbitration to resolve the dispute.
“We will fight what we perceive to be an injustice,” it concluded.
The First Division North table has been amended and, following a 1-0 defeat at home to Scarborough on Wednesday, Adam Lakeland’s men now trail leaders Warrington by 22 points.
They sit third, with three games in hand on the Yellows.
Spennymoor, in second, are six points better off.
Vics visit Trafford tomorrow, Saturday, kick off 3pm.