Sent Her Forward exclusive
Burgess Hill Town’s game against Crockenhill, which was abandoned last Sunday with the home side 8-0 up when their opponents were reduced to seven players, is likely to be replayed because the referee made a mistake, the secretary of the league has revealed.
As reported on Sent Her Forward, referee Nigel Robinson called a halt in the 65th minute when Crockenhill – who had started the match with just nine fit players – lost two more to injury, leaving them with only seven.
Mr Robinson told Sent Her Forward at the time that there had to be a minimum of eight in a side to continue but that it would be up to the South East Counties Women’s Football League to determine whether the score would stand, and the points awarded to Burgess Hill, or the game replayed.
However, a league official has revealed that the referee has wrongly interpreted the league’s rules and that the match should have been allowed to continue, even with just seven players in the Crockenhill side, if they had been prepared to play on.
Greg Petts, the experienced secretary of both the South East Counties and London & South East Regional leagues, said: “The minimum number of players that can play, in the Laws of the Game, is seven, and our league also states seven in our rules.
“Many other leagues set the number at eight, but we do not, as we know that games can often have less than 11 players on both sides, and as long as both teams want to play, then why force them not to?”
10 F (iv) In the event of a match not being played or abandoned owing to causes over which neither club has control, it shall be played in its entirety on a date to be mutually agreed by the two clubs and approved by the management committee – FA Standard Code of Rules
Both clubs had expected Burgess Hill to be handed the points, given the scoreline at the time the Premier Division match was abandoned.
But now it looks as though the Sussex club will have to start all over again – potentially against a full complement from Crockenhill – later in the season, even though, with 25 minutes left, there was no doubt who was going to win the original match.
Crockenhill coach Chris Foster, who was in charge on Sunday, told Sent Her Forward after the game: “It will be three points to [Burgess Hill], but we knew it would be three points to them when we kicked off. Whether we finished the game or not, it was always going to be three points to them.”
And Burgess Hill manager Mark Bishop, who had urged his players to boost their goal difference against their depleted opponents, said: “I would be very disappointed if we didn’t get the three points.”
It’s a technical error. Therefore, the game will be rescheduled – Greg Petts, secretary, South East Counties Women’s Football League
But Mr Petts explained that league officials could not take into account the emphatic scoreline at the time of the abandonment. “There isn’t a lot we can do. The referee’s report backs up everything the clubs have said, and what you have said – that he abandoned the game while [Crockenhill] still had seven players on the park.
“That basically means it’s a technical error. Therefore, the game will be rescheduled.”
Mr Petts added: “The referee was going on what his knowledge was of other leagues (where the minimum is sometimes eight players), and of course, that doesn’t apply. Therefore, it’s neither club’s fault that the game didn’t conclude.”
He said: “I don’t want to make a scapegoat of the referee over it because they are amateurs after all and not aware of every single rule of every single competition that they officiate in. So I’m not going to cast blame on him. It’s a shame.”
Mr Petts will now meet the league’s referees’ secretary, Angela Bennett, to discuss the next move. But he believes the only way to preserve last Sunday’s result would be to charge Crockenhill with causing the abandonment – and he said Mr Robinson’s report gave no indication that they had refused to play on.”
The unlikely prospect of disciplinary action against the club would be particularly ironic, given Crockenhill’s efforts to honour the fixture, despite having only nine players available – and the difficulties of some players in even getting to the game, after four were stuck in heavy traffic, forcing kick-off to be delayed by more than an hour.
Yet, with Burgess Hill ready, willing and able to fulfil the fixture with a full complement, it seems equally ironic that they should stand to lose the most.