Chaos as league charges two clubs over ‘ineligible players’

Sent Her Forward exclusive

Action from Crawley Wasps v Lancing, Nov 9 2014 (Photo: Dave Burt)

Crawley Wasps and Lancing are among the clubs who could be affected by the league’s eventual decision (Photo: Dave Burt)

The Sussex County League title race has been thrown into disarray after league officials refused to ratify three potentially crucial results involving teams accused of fielding ineligible players.

The league has charged Crawley Wasps and Worthing Town over the number of players with first-team experience who featured in three December Women’s Division fixtures, leaving doubts over whether the results will stand – and the possibility of points deductions for the two teams.

The Sussex County Women and Girls Football League’s management committee will consider the three matches – and the clubs’ responses to the charges – later this month.

League chairman Clare Nichols told Sent Her Forward: “This is a serious issue… These rules are all part of the FA Standard Code of Rules, so apply to all leagues at this level.”

The investigation centres on whether Wasps and Worthing – whose county sides are both effectively second strings – fielded more than the permitted number of players with recent first-team experience in the matches under scrutiny.

Crawley Wasps‘ record-equalling 21-0 win over Henfield on December 21 is one of the fixtures being examined. Wasps say they called up a couple of extra first-team players for the fixture after facing the prospect of being unable to field enough players.

The league’s rather complex rule 8D – under which both teams have been charged – allows for two players with five or more games’ experience with a club’s senior side to be included.

But any more can be picked only if at least 30 days has elapsed since they last featured in a senior competition.

Wasps say the two they brought in – Laura Harding and Suzanne Davies – effectively constituted the two “permitted” players. A third, Zoe Martin, has played for the first team, but not for more than 30 days.

So the problem seems to revolve around Rebekah Dunt, who has figured for both teams this season.

Wasps manager Simon Pavey did not believe she would affect the calculations as she had started only two first-team games. However, she appeared as a substitute on three other occasions.

Pavey told Sent Her Forward: “[If that is against the rules], it is a bit of a mistake on my behalf. Laura and Suzanne were drafted in at the last minute because I was short of players.

“The stupid thing is, I rushed around on the Friday [before the Henfield match] signing Laura and Suzanne. If I hadn’t, we wouldn’t [have been accused of breaking any rules].”

Games under scrutiny

Dec 7 2014 Lancing 7-2 Worthing Town
Dec 21 2014 Hurstpierpoint 4-0 Worthing Town
Dec 21 2014 Henfield 0-21 Crawley Wasps

Pavey, who took over Crawley’s second team this season after a lengthy spell as assistant at Horsham Sparrows, believes Wasps – who are currently second – would have beaten third-bottom Henfield even with 10 players.

And he denied that the motive was to increase Wasps’ goal difference after league leaders Lancing had boosted theirs the previous week with a 20-0 victory over Predators.

Davies, the first team’s top scorer, scored a first-half hat-trick against Henfield but switched to goalkeeper after half-time. Dunt also hit a hat-trick and Martin two as Crawley almost trebled their goal difference in a single game.

“All the goals, bar [Davies’] three in the first half, were from my regular girls,” Pavey said. “Under no circumstances was there ever any intention to cheat.”

Two of Worthing Town‘s matches are under investigation: their 7-2 defeat to Lancing on December 7 and their game at Hurstpierpoint on the same day as the Henfield v Crawley fixture. Worthing lost that one 4-0.

The charges are particularly embarrassing for Town, whose chairman, Tony Lelliott, is vice-chairman of the league.

He told Sent Her Forward the club had been unaware of the charges until contacted by Sent Her Forward. “I don’t know what happened, but the e-mail wasn’t received,” he said. “I have now had a copy sent over and requested the seven days notice (in which to respond).”

Impact on the league table

Before charges P W D L F A PTS As it stands P W D L F A PTS
Lancing 10 9 0 1 82 10 27   Lancing 9 8 0 1 75 8 24
Crawley W 10 8 1 1 48 16 25   Crawley W 9 7 1 1 27 16 22
Hurstpierpoint 8 6 0 2 35 2 18 Lewes 8 5 1 2 35 7 16
Lewes 8 5 1 2 35 7 16 Hurstpierpoint 7 5 0 2 31 2 15
Rottingdean V 7 3 2 2 30 15 11 Rottingean V 7 3 2 2 30 15 11
Jarvis Brook 8 3 0 5 17 22 9   Jarvis Brook 8 3 0 5 17 22 9
Henfield 9 2 0 7 3 66 6   Henfield 8 2 0 6 3 45 6
Worthing T 9 0 1 8 5 47 1   Worthing T 7 0 1 6 3 36 1
Predators 9 0 1 8 1 71 1 Predators 9 0 1 8 1 71 1

* Affected teams in red; charged teams in bold

Crawley Town manager Derek McCoubrey has so far not responded to efforts to contact him. If he does so, I shall add his comments to this article.

The league has a number of options if it finds either club guilty of breaching the rule.

In Worthing’s case, forfeiting the two games in question is irrelevant, as they lost both.

But a points deduction would take them to the bottom of the table, behind Predators, who, ironically, have forfeited three games this season, although not against any of the main title contenders.

If the results are expunged, it could have an impact at the other end of the table, as both their opponents in the disputed games – Lancing, who are top, and Hurstpierpoint, who are fourth with games in hand – are in contention for the championship.

If Crawley Wasps’ disputed result is not allowed to stand, it could have major ramifications, as the winning margin against Henfield helped the team – who are two points behind Lancing – make up considerable ground on their rivals’ goal difference.

And they have yet to play Predators, whose eight defeats in nine matches have included 16-0, 11-0 and 9-0 reverses, as well as 20-0 and 14-0 to Lancing.

Ms Nichols told Sent Her Forward: “Both clubs have been written to and asked to respond, and as with any breach of rules and subsequent charges, clubs are given seven days from the date of notice to reply to the charge and given the opportunity to accept or deny the charge, submit in writing a case of mitigation or put their case before the management committee.”

Sanctions available to the league include a fine, deduction of any points won, the award of those points to their opponents, deduction of up to three additional points and the replaying of the game, or games, in question.

The league has not revealed how it became aware of the alleged breaches.

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