Essex County Cup holders West Ham United are facing a fight to get back into the competition after being kicked out for failing to fulfil their quarter-final fixture against Billericay Town.
The Essex FA decision initially triggered a wave of angry reactions on social media, but with negotiations still continuing, despite announcements by both parties that West Ham had been “removed”, those involved are now adopting a lower profile.
But as things stand, West Ham, who won the trophy last season for the third time, are no longer in this season’s competition, and Billericay have been awarded a place in the semi-finals, where they are due to play Barking.
Sent Her Forward has developed a reputation for accuracy and reliability, without showing fear or favour to the subjects of its reports.
This has been achieved through a combination of much time-consuming research by me, double-checking where possible and relying on the co-operation of those parties involved – notably in the past year by Chichester City, Queens Park Rangers, Crawley Wasps and Worthing Town, all of whom have co-operated, despite facing disciplinary action, to ensure my reports are accurate.
Sent Her Forward has made two attempts to contact West Ham, through their secretary, Bill Robinson. He has not yet responded to approaches by phone or e-mail, and the club announced on Twitter that they would not be commenting pending the continuing negotiations.
If Mr Robinson, or the club, do contact me, I shall update this article accordingly.
Essex FA promised Sent Her Forward a statement on the issue, which has not yet been forthcoming, and the FA is determined not to comment, leaving me to rely on information supplied by the key parties themselves online.
The problem appears to centre on West Ham’s involvement in two separate county cup competitions, as well as the FAW Premier League.
The Hammers played Haringey Borough last Sunday in the Capital Cup, meaning their Essex Women’s Cup game against Billericay should have been put back to this Sunday, when they are also due to play Brighton in a crucial Premier League fixture.
Given that the Brighton match is still on, and Billericay Town have been awarded the county-cup tie, it appears that West Ham opted to play the league game this Sunday, triggering Essex FA’s action.
Julian Dicks, the club’s manager, suggested in a tweet, after being told the news, that West Ham had been punished for not playing the Billericay game.
What’s the point in playing football, when you get kicked out of cup, just because you can’t fulfil a fixture on a Sunday. Shambles — Julian Dicks (@JULIAN3DICKS) January 21, 2015
Club captain Stacey Little appeared to reinforce this in a series of tweeted responses to followers on Twitter.
— Stacey Little (@StaceyLittle) January 21, 2015
As news spread and realisation dawned that West Ham would not be able to defend the trophy they won by beating Barking 5-1 last season, the tweets grew angrier.
Essex FA confirmed the move on its website, confirming Billericay’s place in the semi-finals.
ESSEX CUP: The situation is being discussed between the Essex FA and the club. No further information is available at the moment. #COYI
— West Ham Ladies (@Westhamladies) January 21, 2015
However, what is not yet clear is whether it was West Ham’s decision to play Brighton rather than Billericay this Sunday, or whether the club was told, or encouraged, to do so.
Except by permission of the Management Committee all matches must be played on the dates originally fixed but priority shall be given to The Football Association and parent County Association Cup Competitions. All other matches must be considered secondary. Clubs may mutually agree to bring forward a match with the consent of the (Fixtures) Secretary – Rule 10 (C) FA Standard Code of Rules 2014-2015
Cup ties normally take precedence over league fixtures – certainly lower down the grassroots pyramid – but with the FA not inclined to get involved (publicly, at least), I have not been able to clarify whether such conventions extend to FAW Premier League clubs, and whether they are discretional at that level.
As things stand, Sent Her Forward understands West Ham’s match at Brighton is due to go ahead on Sunday – and their position in the Essex Women’s Cup remains in doubt.