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Archived News from January 2009

15th January 2009 17:25

Oxford have been deducted 5 points, after playing a player who was ineligible, in games where the club gained 11 points. The Conference, rules at the bottom of the page, are unequivocable.

So why not 11 points deducted from Oxford? Oxford manager admits below: it could have been a lot worse. Also see detailed explanation further down of the games that made up the 11 points.


Football Conference Statement


Pursuant to Rule 6.8 of the Rules of The Football Conference a three member panel found three member clubs guilty of playing an ineligible player.

Bognor Regis Town have been deducted 7 points in respect of the player Samuel Pearce, Crawley Town have been deducted 4 points in respect of the player Isaiah Rankin and Oxford United have been deducted 5 points in respect of the player Edward Stephen Hutchinson.


email from The Football Conference who will not elaborate on how the penalties for each club were calculated, or when the offences came to light.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your comments received via The Football Conference website.

At present The Football Conference is not at liberty to disclose any further information with regard to the member Club hearings which took place on Monday 12th January 2009. However, in line with our recent press release we can confirm that pursuant to Rule 6.8 of the Rules of The Football Conference, a three member panel found three member Clubs (Bognor Regis Town, Crawley Town and Oxford United) guilty of playing an ineligible player. All three cases were considered separately and Clubs were dealt points deductions and fines relative to the offence committed.

Each Club has 14 days in which to appeal the decision to the Football Association, during which time no further comment will be made.

Kind regards,

The Football Conference


Don't miss the podcast of the BBC Non-league show. Much discussion about the points deductions. Listen http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2008/01/02/nl_show_listen_feature.shtml

Excerpt from the show here, as former Conference chief John Moules says he is aghast that it took 3 months for the Oxford situation to come out


Local leagues put Conference to shame
8:00am Thursday 15th January 2009


By Mark Edwards

An Oxford Mail investigation has revealed that local football leagues – managed in all cases by volunteers – operate a far more efficient registration process than the Football Conference.

Oxford United were docked five points for fielding an unregistered player, Eddie Hutchinson, after he was allowed to feature in 13 matches before the administrative error was noticed by paid Conference officers – a period of almost three months.

But when the Oxford Mail spoke to six local leagues – including two junior competitions – all revealed that any registration problems would be dealt with immediately, and vowed that the longest any club would have to wait to learn their fate would be a month.

However, in all instances, clubs would be informed within a maximum of ten days that they have played someone illegally, to ensure they do not continue to do so.

The processes would therefore ensure a player would make a maximum of only two appearances before any error is detected.

While United have unquestionably made a grave mistake, they should never have had to wait almost three months before being alerted to the error.

Further investigation has revealed that Hutchinson's lack of registration might have not been picked up by the Conference until March.

The Football Conference used to conduct spot-checks on teamsheets – meaning that they just randomly selected two or three squad numbers in each side to check whether they were registered rather than every name on the team sheet.

As the last game United were charged by the Conference for playing Hutchinson was against York on November 2, it cannot have been until that month that Hutchinson's number was picked and the error spotted.

But that means that it could have been catastrophic for United, had a check on Hutchinson not been picked up until March – when all players' registrations are checked – because they could have potentially lost around 40 points.

When the Conference discovered the error in November, they changed their process. Every player now has a unique identification number that has to be written alongside their name on the team-sheet.

The Conference now check every player who features in every match.

The Oxford Mail understands that United used this argument as one of their main points in Monday's hearing – the league are effectively admitting their process was flawed because they changed the way it operated mid-season.

While admitting their club made a serious error, U's fans are angry that the mistake took so long to be brought to light.

One supporter, posting on the thisisunited forum as Yellows 1, emailed the Conference to vent his discontent and posted their response under the heading: 'A reply from the Mickey Mouse league'!

Local leagues simply put the Conference to shame.

The biggest, the Hellenic League, have a computerised system that means when sides fill out their team sheets online after a game, they immediately know if a player is either unregistered or suspended.

Within four days of any match, the league office also receive a team-sheet from the match referee and they then cross-check these details.

Hellenic League registration secretary, Angela King, said: “Clubs register their players online, or by posting details to the league office.

“Players that show up as unregistered will be picked up within a week, both by the club and the league office.”

The North Berks Leaguel chairman, Les Addison, says all players who feature in weekend matches will be checked within a week.

“As soon as the forms are received, our registration secretary will go through every player to make sure they are eligible to play.

“But the whole procedure, including punishment for a team, is normally complete within a fortnight.

“It does seem rather strange that some appearances the Oxford United player made in August went undetected for months.”

Witney & District FA secretary, John Smyth, said their checks take 'days' to complete.

He explained: “Clubs have up to four days to send their team-sheets to us, and they are checked immediately.

“If a player wasn't registered or shouldn't have played, then we will contact the club, question them and we will usually reach a decision within a fortnight.”

Oxfordshire Senior League registration secretary Les Middleton says that their method is proven to work.

“The day I get match cards from the weekend, they are all checked immediately,” he said.

“We notify clubs straight away so that they know what the situation is, and then the incident will be brought up at a monthly meeting.”

Even in junior football, any irregularities are spotted quickly – and they appear to have an even better way of dealing with any potential misdemeanours.

Both the Oxford Mail Boys League and Witney & District Youth League have registration cards available to both managers and referee before each game.

Wayne Tilling, press officer for the Witney Youth League, explained: “Our rules state that when match cards are filled out before a game, registration cards of all players, including a picture, must be made available to opposition managers and referee.”

When the Oxford Mail contacted the Football Conference, they declined to make any comments, despite being informed of our findings.

A spokesperson said: “We cannot comment because there is a chance of clubs appealing and we cannot discuss anything about our process.”

The three clubs affected by points deductions this week – Oxford United, Crawley Town and Bognor Regis – all declined to comment on the Oxford Mail's findings as they are considering appeals to the FA.


Stags monitor surprise Oxford points ruling
CHAD.co.uk, 13 January 2009 , By John Lomas
MANSFIELD Town are closely monitoring the Conference decision to dock Oxford United five points yesterday.

Full story at CHAD.co.uk here

Stags were docked four points earlier this season for playing unregistered players in two games in which they gained four points.

Rumours were abound this week that Oxford would be docked 11 points as that was how many points they had gained in matches in which the unregistered player in question - believed to be Eddie Hutchinson - had played.

However, United were docked only five yesterday and Stags chairman Andy Perry told Chad: "We are keeping a very close eye on the situation.

"We were led to believe - and its only from hearsay - that it would be more. We prefer to work from the facts and not just something that has come out in the press and may not be correct.

"But we were hearing that this player had played in whatever number of games from which they had gained 11 points.

"When we had this problem, we went through the rulebook and it was totally black and white - no grey areas - any unregistered player would see all the points deducted from the games they had played in. No leniency whatsover.

"It will be interesting to see what grounds they have not lost all 11. Maybe he was registered properly in the meantime during the games they took 11 points in?

"This is not about wanting any team to lose points, it's about everyone being given the same and being fair.

"To be honest the whole issue needs re-evaluating as it seems a lot are falling into this particular trap."

Crawley Town were also deducted four points for a similar offence yesterday over Isaiah Rankin and have also expressed surprise anger at what seems to be a more 'lenient' view towards Oxford.

Both clubs now have 14 days to appeal, something Stags decided not to do earlier this season.

When asked by Chad about the Oxford ruling, Conference general manager Dennis Strudwick said: "I can't comment at the moment as this is subject to appeal and clubs have 14 days to decide."


Stags to look at Oxford points deduction
Evening Post, 13Jan2009
ANDY Perry has confirmed Mansfield will study the findings of a Football Conference statement on Oxford's points deduction before deciding what action, if any, the club will take.

Full story at Evening Post website here

The Us were expected to be docked the 11 points they gained in the games when they fielded Eddie Hutchinson while not properly registered.

But they were deducted five points by the Conference, raising the question among some member clubs as to whether the punishment fits the crime.

It is similar to an offence that saw four points taken off Mansfield earlier in the season for winning and losing the two games concerned.

Crawley also had four points deducted yesterday for playing an ineligible player, Isaiah Rankin.

“If we are not happy with what we read in the statement, we will be asking the question of the Conference as to how they made their decision,” said Stags chairman Perry.

“If it is for the same breach, then we want to know we have been dealt with in the same way as Oxford were.

“If the punishment is for this particular player, then I am surprised it is only five points, because you can clearly see which games he has played in and the points they have picked up during that time.

“But it may not be as simple as that. Oxford may have discovered their error and registered the player for the later games, which means the points deduction would be less.

“We will have to see, but our fans can be assured that we are on the case.”

Even if Mansfield are aggrieved with Oxford's punishment following the Conference's explanations, the club may not necessarily pursue the issue legally.

Perry said: “I'm sure we could go down the legal road if we are not happy, but we would have to assess whether it would be worth it.

“Say we were to finish in mid-table by the end of the season, people would say it would be a waste of money pursuing the case.”


The chairman of the Oxford United Supporters Trust, Trevor (didn't catch his surname) was on BBC Radio Oxford as I drove to work at 8.15am (13 Jan 2009). He said that he would be worried if Oxford appeal against the decision as it could backfire and the Conference could increase the penalty to 11 points.

He also said that he would be getting in touch with the supporters trusts of Mansfield and Crawley to see if anything collectively can be done. Will await his email...


United docked five points
3:35pm Monday 12th January 2009


By Jon Murray »

Oxford United have been docked five points after failing to register midfielder Eddie Hutchinson at the start of this season.

The verdict came at a hearing in Birmingham this afternoon after chairman Kelvin Thomas and general manager Mick Brown appealed against a possible 11-point deduction after the Football Conference found Hutchinson had not been registered by United in the first three months of the season.


United may appeal over verdict
3:49pm Monday 12th January 2009


By Jon Murray »

Oxford United say they will study the exact details before deciding whether to appeal against their five-point deduction for playing an ineligible player at the start of this season.

At a meeting of the Football Conference Disciplinary Panel in Birmingham, United were fined £500 and docked five points for failing to register midfielder Eddie Hutchinson.

The U's collected 11 points in the period he was not registered, before the mistake was spotted.

United chairman Kelvin Thomas told the club's website: "We defended our case. However, the deicision was a fine of £500, with a further fine of £3,500 suspended until May 2010, and a five-point deduction.

"We are deeply disappointed with the penalty imposed and feel there are major issues surrounding the administrative procedures of the league which must be addressed.

"A decision to appeal will be made within the 14-day time frame allowed, once we have considered the full written reasons of the panel."

United drop from 11th to 14th place in the Blue Square Premier following the verdict.


We'll still go for play-offs - Wilder
Monday 12th January 2009


By Jon Murray »

Chris Wilder admits he is "disappointed" by the decision to deduct Oxford United five points, but says he hasn't given up hope that they can still push for a play-off place.

Oxford United's manager conceded he had mixed feelings about the Conference disciplinary panel's verdict in Birmingham on Monday.

He told me: “It's a bit in-between really. Disappoint-ment at these five points, but then it could have been a lot worse.

“We have won the last two games, so have got some momentum, and it's disappointing to have that knocked back.

“But we can't hide behind the fact that this has happened, and we've got to get on with it.

“Players, being players – or at least one or two of them – will maybe use it as an excuse.

“But the good thing from my point of view, if there is one, is that this will weedle them out.

“They are not the kind of players who will achieve, not the kind of players I want at the club, so if I see signs that any player is thinking like that, I'll soon act on it.

“I certainly won't be making excuses, or using it as an excuse.

“We will take every game on its merits and will try to win every game, to do everything possible to still try to reach them (the play-offs).”

The five-point deduction means United drop from 11th place to 14th in the Blue Square Premier, with Crawley Town's four-point penalty for a similar offence, dropping them out of the play-off places, from third to sixth.

Oxford would probably need something close to 47 points from their last 20 games to stand a chance of a top-five place at the end of April.

Alhough not impossible, that's a massive task.


Crunch time for United season
oxfordmail.co.uk, Sunday

By Mark Edwards »

KELVIN Thomas must be wondering why he gave up life in America to become Oxford United's chairman.

Having taken on the role to see if a fresh face and new ideas could help solve United's serious financial problems, he knew he was facing a mammoth task.

But having been in the hot-seat for just three months, Thomas is facing his biggest challenge yet.

Today's hearing over a possible 11-point deduction for Oxford United is crucial for the club's future.

Everybody connected with the club has been anxiously looking at the Blue Square Premier table, working out just how close the U's could get to the play-offs.

But attention instead turns to the teams at the wrong end of the table – which is likely to include Oxford United.

The U's are clearly at fault for the administrative error that saw Eddie Hutchinson play for almost three months illegally.

However, the whole situation hardly puts the Football Conference in a good light either – just how did it take them so long to notice that he was not registered with the club?

If, as was the case with Mansfield earlier in the season, the mistake was spotted quickly, United could have faced a three or four-point deduction that they would have to have accepted.

But an 11-point penalty at this stage of the season will be catastrophic.

Former manager Darren Patterson did not want transfer-listed Hutchinson re-registered when secretary Mick Brown sent off the forms in the summer for all the players who ended last season at the club and would be staying for this campaign.

But when the midfielder rejected a couple of moves elsewhere, Patterson realised that due to the size of United's squad, he would need Hutchinson available as back-up should the need arise.

Hutchinson signed the relevant paperwork, which was then sent off by Brown to the Football Conf-erence.

But they claim the forms never arrived, and United's failure to check meant that an unregistered Hutchinson featured in 13 games.

The 11 points United face being docked came when Hutchinson played in wins over East-bourne, Northwich and York, as well as draws against Woking and Ebbsfleet.

Fortunately, he did not come off the bench in the 2-1 win over Rushden, or the 1-1 draw with Torquay, or United would face a 15-point ban.

Thomas though, has had far more thrown at him in three months than anyone could have imagined – least of all himself.

And this latest issue happened before he was even in the same country, let alone at the club.

While trying to keep the club afloat and ensure there is enough money to pay the Kassam Stadium rent as well as wages to the staff, Thomas has had to deal with a young player who posted racist remarks on a website, and now a member of staff who made one error that could cost the club very dear.

But you can't help but feel sorry for new boss Chris Wilder too.

Wilder is understood to have been told about the situation when he was interviewed for the manager's job at the Kassam Sta-dium.

The fact he still wanted the job shows just how determined he is to succeed with the U's.

Battling against point deductions is nothing new for United's manager, however.

His cash-stricken Halifax Town side lost ten points while he was in charge last season after going into administration.

But it is easy to see just why United have been really pushing this year's FA Trophy as a huge competition, with the prospects of a trip to Wembley maybe the only glimmer of light the club may have this season.

With Saturday's postponed tie at home to York now being played tomorrow night, the U's are desperate for their fans to have something to cheer about.


Five-point deduction for Oxford


Blue Square Premier side Oxford United have been deducted five points for fielding an unregistered player.

It had been feared that Oxford could face an 11-point deduction after Eddie Hutchinson played for the U's without being properly registered.

The decision leaves the U's 14 points off the play-offs in 14th place, although an 11-point deduction would have put them in the relegation zone.

The club have 14 days to appeal against the deduction and £500 fine.

The 26-year-old midfielder, who has been at Oxford since July 2006, was transfer-listed last January by former boss Darren Patterson and did not warm-up for the new season with the first team at HMS Collingwood.

He has scored two goals in 19 games for United this season, and helped Oxford earn 11 points before the error was discovered in November.

Clubs are obliged to re-register players at the start of every campaign and make sure the Conference has received their registration.

"We feel there are major issues surrounding the administrative procedures of the league which much be addressed" - Oxford chairman Kelvin Thomas

The club had been hoping to return to the Football League at the third time of asking, following their relegation from League Two in 2005/06.

Chairman Kelvin Thomas told the club website: "We defended our case. We are deeply disappointed with the penalty imposed and feel there are major issues surrounding the administrative procedures of the league which much be addressed.

"A decision to appeal will be made within the 14-day time frame allowed, once we have considered the full written reasons of the panel."

There is also a further fine of £3,500 suspended until May 2010.

The U's are now just five points above the relegation zone.


CTFC - Posted 12th January 2009


Crawley Town Football Club have this afternoon (Monday) appeared before a senior Football Conference panel regarding the charge of fielding an unregistered player.

The player in question Isaiah Rankin was signed by the football club back in July 2008. The Football Club was represented at today's hearing by Steve Mansell (Vice Chairman), Susan Carter (Director) and Barry Munn (Secretary).

The Football Conference Panel have implemented the following sanction

* CTFC to be deducted 4 points

* CTFC to be fined £500.00

* CTFC have been instructed to pay £250.00 towards the hearing costs

* CTFC have a suspended fine of a further £1,500, suspended until May 2010 for a similar breach of The Conference rules.

Crawley Town Football Club are extremely disappointed with this decision.

The decision is even more surprising given the sanction awarded to Oxford United for an identical but much deeper breach of The Football Conference rules.

The football club board will now take legal advice prior to any decision being made in relation to an appeal, which from today we have 14 days to do so.

Within the time frame outlined above we will have had the opportunity to have fully considered the full written reasons of the Conference panel. At that stage we will be in the position to make an informed decision.

Chairman Vic Marley said; “This decision is extremely hard to take given the flawed registration procedures that The Football Conference Premier had in place in the early part of the season.

"I also have sympathy for Oxford United who like ourselves are a victim of this flawed process but there is no doubt we have been dealt far more severely.

“I will meet with Steve Mansell, Sue Carter and my fellow board members at the earliest opportunity and in follow up to that meeting a full statement will be released.”

No further comment will be made.


Evans considers his future after points blow
7:00am Tuesday 13th January 2009


By Bruce Talbot »

Boss Steve Evans is considering his position after Crawley were hammered with a fourth points deduction in the last four years.

Reds are out of the Conference play-offs and down to sixth place after they were docked four points for failing to register summer signing Isaiah Rankin.

They were also fined £750 including the costs of yesterday's hearing in Birmingham and a further £1,500 fine has been suspended until May 2010.

Evans said: “Am I considering my own position? Maybe.

“There will be no kneejerk reaction and my only focus at the moment is tomorrow's FA Trophy game at Cambridge.

“But it's soul destroying if you're Steve Evans or (assistant manager) Paul Raynor. We came here in 2007 looking for a fresh start and we lost six points at the start of our first season which we knew nothing about and now this.

“Individuals have their own decision to make as to how they want to deal with it – that means everyone at the club from management to backroom staff.”

In 2006 the club lost three points for breaking Conference playing budget rules and the following season were deducted ten points after going into administration.


Angry Evans calls for overhaul of "archaic" system
8:00am Tuesday 13th January 2009


By Bruce Talbot »

CRAWLEY boss Steve Evans is demanding that the Conference improve their “archaic” registration procedures after they became the third club this season to be deducted points.

Reds were docked four points for failing to register Isaiah Rankin after a hearing at Conference headquarters in Birmingham yesterday despite appeals from secretary Barry Munn and directors Susan Carter and Steve Mansell.

At the same meeting, Oxford United were deducted five points while Mansfield were docked four points in October.

Crawley have yet to decide whether to appeal but Evans says they will demand that the Conference check the details of every player in the league and believes it will throw up more unregistered players.

He said: “The system is archaic so we are going to insist that they go through every club and every player in a reasonable time and I think you'll find a few more clubs will lose points.

“Barry Munn sent off Rankin's registration in exactly the same way as every other player.

“In Conference north and south you have an individual registration number for every player which goes on the teamsheet. That wasn't the case in the premier division before Rankin came to light – but it is now.”

Crawley chairman Vic Marley expressed his surprise at the leniency of Oxford's punishment.

Their player concerned – midfielder Eddie Hutchinson – helped them win 11 points while injury-plagued Rankin, who has only made one league start, helped Reds collect seven points and three of those were in a game when he came on in the 88th minute to make one of four substitute appearances.

Marley said: “We are extremely disappointed with the decision which is even more surprising given the sanction awarded to Oxford for a similar but much deeper breach of the rules.

“The decision is hard to take given the flawed registration procedures the Conference had in place at the start of the season. I have sympathy for Oxford who have been victims like ourselves but there is no doubt we have been dealt with more harshly.”

The club will seek legal advice before deciding whether to appeal but a second points deduction since he became manager in July 2007 has left Evans bitterly disappointing and considering his own future.

Reds have dropped from third to seventh in the table although Evans believes his squad will pull together to overcome this latest setback.

He said: “I sometimes work 80-90 hours a week to get something right here at Crawley and then something like this happens to you.

“All you look for in terms of your punishment is fairness and in a couple of days time we will look at what has happened and then decide as a management team whether you want to fight and carry on.

“The players will be disappointed but they will just get on with it.

“It is the same as when Manchester United played at Southampton in grey shirts and lost. If you give players an excuse they will take it but what has happened will not be the difference between us winning games or not.

“I can't fault the attitude of our players and what will get us through this is the togetherness of the squad.

“If we have a good January we will be back in the play-offs at the end of the month because things can change very quickly.”

Reds will give debuts to Lewis Chalmers and Jon Shaw, who joined last week, against Cambridge United in the FA Trophy fourth round tomorrow. The winners will be away to either Lewes or Havant & Waterlooville.


comment from Martin - as of Dec 30, Crawley had won 10 points in games that Isaiah Rankin had played in. But presumably the problem had been rectified BEFORE Dec 30. The number of points gained in relevant matches has not been reported as far as I can tell. ... see UPDATE below

UPDATE: injury-plagued Rankin, who has only made one league start, helped Reds collect seven points and three of those were in a game when he came on in the 88th minute to make one of four substitute appearances.


Bognor hit with seven point deduction
5:55pm Monday 12th January 2009


By Steve Hollis »

Bognor have been hit with a seven-point penalty for fielding an inelligible player.

The Rocks are planning to appeal against the judgement which came at a meeting of the Football Conference today.

Bognor were found guilty of failing to register summer signing Sam Pearce properly during a random check.

Pearce played has started 17 games and come on as a substitute three times this season.

The Rocks are furious with the decision as Oxford United were given a five-point penalty and Crawley a four-point deduction for similar infringements.





Any Club found to have played an ineligible player in a match shall have any points gained from that match deducted from its record and have levied upon it a fine in accordance with the Fines Tariff.

The Conference Board may vary the decision in respect of the points gained only in circumstances where the ineligibility is due to the failure to obtain an International Transfer Certificate or in the case of where a substitute player who was intended to be a participant in a match or was listed on the official team sheet did not participate in that match.



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