SUFFOLK FA Chief Executive Richard Neal and Leiston FC Chairman Andy Crisp have released the below Joint Statement concerning the Suffolk Senior Cup.
Following the Suffolk Senior Cup quarter final match between Leiston FC Reserves vs Brantham Athletic FC Reserves, played on 24th February 2018, Suffolk FA received an allegation that Leiston FC Reserves had fielded two ineligible players under Rule 5e(v) of the Suffolk FA County Cup Rules. In line with due process, Leiston FC Reserves were charged of this offence on Tuesday 27th February. On 28th February, Leiston FC submitted a response denying the charge and requesting the case be put to three Suffolk FA Council members, in accordance with the outlined disciplinary procedures. That hearing took place on 5th March at Suffolk FA HQ, at which the panel came to the conclusion that the rule had been broken, and Leiston FC Reserves should be removed from the Suffolk Senior Cup.
Under Rule 19 of the Suffolk FA County Cup Rules, Leiston FC requested this outcome be considered by a Board of Appeal. The Appeal took place on 13th March at Suffolk FA HQ with three different commissioners.The Board of Appeal concluded that the initial decision taken by the members of the Suffolk FA Council was not perverse or misconceived and the decision reached on 5th March was upheld.
Leiston FC then issued arbitration proceedings with the national FA on 19th March. Suffolk FA filed their response to those proceedings on 6th April.
Suffolk FA and Leiston FC are now able to report that they have reached a resolution without the need to exhaust the FA’s arbitration procedure. Save for the comments below, neither party will comment any further on the matter.
On behalf of Suffolk FA, Richard Neal has said: “Suffolk FA and Leiston FC have agreed to proceed with the Suffolk Senior Cup, upholding the decision reached through the disciplinary process. Suffolk FA are confident the processes followed and the application of the rules has been correct. However, I am very pleased that the parties have been able to resolve the dispute without the need to continue with the arbitration process.
Suffolk FA acknowledge that there was no deliberate attempt made by Leiston FC to gain an advantage or contravene the rule. It is obvious to me that they held – and indeed still hold – a strong belief that their interpretation of the rule was the correct one. As I said in my previous statement on this matter on 21st March, I have requested that Rule 5e(v) of the Suffolk FA County Cup Rules is fully reviewed prior to the 2018/2019 season to provide clarity for all teams playing across County Cup competitions. I am delighted Leiston FC will be working with us on this process. We will also gratefully receive the views of other clubs through our usual AGM process.
In regards to the Suffolk Senior Cup for this season, it became apparent that the national FA arbitration process would not be resolved until at least the summer and both Leiston FC and Suffolk FA agreed that it was in the best interests of all parties for the competition to be completed this season.
I wish to place on record my thanks to Leiston FC for acknowledging that it was not in the interests of the clubs in the competition, their players, supporters and football generally for the competition to be delayed until next season, and look forward to rebuilding the relationship with one of the premier clubs of the County.
I also apologise to those clubs who have had to patiently accommodate the delays since the quarter-finals and CNet Training as sponsors of the competition. I am very glad we can now proceed in preparation for the final to be held at Portman Road on Friday 11th May.”
On behalf of Leiston FC, Andy Crisp has said: “The removal of our Reserves from the Suffolk Senior Cup was extremely disappointing. In selecting the two players, who had in August/September 2017 played in the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division, we were confident that there was no breach of Rule 5e(v). Our interpretation of the rule was, and remains, that whilst the Reserves could not select a player who had appeared more than 8 times for our first team, we were quite entitled to select both players to play in our Reserve team in this competition, notwithstanding the fact that they had played in the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division earlier in the season.
We concede the fact that the Council and Board of Appeal of Suffolk FA took a different view and, in particular, we are grateful for the concessions that Mr Neal has made. Whilst we were confident with the strength of our case, the timescale of that legal process means that there would have been no winners.
We agree that it would not be fair to other clubs, sponsors and the local non-league game if the Suffolk Senior Cup could not be completed this season. Whilst we and Suffolk FA disagree on our interpretation of the current Rule 5e(v), we wish to conclude the matter and, instead, accept Suffolk FA’s invitation to allow us to comment on the re-drafting of the rule before next season. We wish to ensure that the rule is clear for all clubs in all County Cup competitions.”