Date: 30th March 2007 at 5:38pm
Written by:

Accrington Stanley have today picked up a £12,000 fine, following a breach of the Football League’s rules. Stanley fielded youngster Chris McGrail, who was on a work-experience loan from Preston North End with Stanley. The second breach is having goalkeeper Martin Fearon on the bench for the Wrexham game, in which he played no part at all.

Fears were growing over a possible points deduction, which at this point in the seaosn Stanley cannot afford to recieve. But thankfully the Football League decided not to take their punishment that far.

Official Accrington Stanley statement:

BACKGROUND

The club had known about the charges brought against us for the last couple of months, however we had always felt that it was always better to keep the story out of the media to prevent struggling clubs attempting to put pressure on the Football League.

Of course this was demonstrated when the story did break with an individual from one club threatened with relegation urging the Football League to take points from us through the press and radio, somewhat disappointing as we would like to think that as a club we would have been supportive of a club of a similar size to ourselves who were threatened with a points deduction for such a technicality, or at least to have kept quiet if we had a clouded history ourselves. We have always believed it important to remember that Accrington Stanley has never sought to cheat or to bypass the rules of the game, let alone the laws of the land.

As a club we don`t try to hide things unnecessarily and at the end of the day people who come to the games and pay money to the club should be entitled to know what is going on, however when the story did break we were advised by our legal team to issue the short statement that we made on our website and then wait till after the hearing before putting our side of the story out to the press. It was actually very difficult not to be able defend the club`s position, particularly in light of what we felt were minor technicalities that could perhaps have been dealt with quickly and simply by pointing out our error and allowing us to rectify the situation.

CHARGE ONE – MARTIN FEARON

The club has run a youth programme for the last two years, giving 16 year olds the chance to join a professional football club while at the same time receiving a good quality education at the local college. In our first season we signed up over twenty school leavers with the Conference education system, and then the following year with our promotion back to the Football League we were also able to take on eleven apprentices. The first and second year youth team players were to all intents and purposes on the same programme. They trained together and they all signed the same dual registration form that enabled them to play in the Football League Puma Youth Alliance and the Pontins Holidays Reserve League, however there was one difference that we were unaware of. Despite the fact that they trained together, went to college at the same time and played in the same matches, youth team players that were taken on in the second year were eligible to play in first team matches, but players who were with us the previous season were not. Martin was only an unused substitute in the game against Wrexham, had no influence on the game. As soon as we were informed about the issue Martin signed a non contract form allowing him to be named in subsequent first team matches.

CHARGE TWO – CHRIS McGRAIL

Chris McGrail is a Preston North End youth team player who had recently featured on the bench for their first team, just as our youth team players signed this season can play in our first team. It is not possible to sign a player on loan if he hasn`t signed a professional contract with his club, however in our first season in the Nationwide Conference we took Darren Kempson from Preston on work experience terms. Although this is allowable under Football Association rules in terms of contractual regulations, we later learnt that it is not permissible under Football League rules. We did however have a number of arguments against the charges of fielding an ineligible player, most notably that there is no mention of this in the rules in the Football League handbook, simply a line in the secretary`s handbook which is to all intents and purposes a guidance document, and also that our secretary had called the Football League on the afternoon of the first match that Chris featured in and was told that the paperwork was in order.

CONCLUSION

Accrington Stanley are satisfied with the outcome of the case. We may have been guilty of technicalilties that breached regulations however we have never sought to cheat or circumvent the rules of the competition or the laws of the game. We accept the fine for the breaches and we now look forward to the remaining seven games this season.


Contact us at accrington@vitalfootball.co.uk

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