Belfast Telegraph

It's out of our hands: NIFL defend verdict on Hamilton appeal but Glens will fight on

By Keith Bailie

Andrew Johnston, managing director of the Northern Ireland Football League, has defended the League's decision not to hear Glentoran's appeal against Gary Hamilton's eligibility.

Last week, the Irish Football Association's Appeal Board ruled that Glenavon's 4-2 victory over Glentoran at The Oval in November would stand despite recognising that Gary Hamilton should have been suspended from the fixture after being sent off in the previous game.

Glentoran had hoped that NIFL would reach a different verdict and award the east Belfast club the points but, following legal advice and a meeting of the Management Committee, the League released a statement saying they were "not in a position to consider the protest."

In response, Glentoran lambasted NIFL, accusing the League of abdicating their responsibilities and adding: "We are very shocked and disappointed at the ruling issued by NIFL, both in terms of the ruling itself and of the very weak and superficial explanation offered."

Johnston clarified NIFL's position to the Belfast Telegraph. He said: "We had to consider not only how the Northern Ireland Football League deal with this situation, but also whether the Northern Ireland Football League could deal with the situation.

"We felt seeking legal advice was the sensible and responsible thing to do and we took that advice on board.

"We didn't hear the case as we didn't feel it was within our rights to do so. The Irish Football Association have full disciplinary powers, as laid down by 13.3 of the IFA's Articles of Association. We have our own Rule 50, in the NIFL Premiership Rules and Regulations, which states the IFA have primacy in these matters. As such we can't consider a disciplinary matter."

In Northern Ireland the Irish FA are the game's governing body, with NIFL set up to administer and promote the top three divisions of domestic football. As the Irish FA are in charge of discipline, NIFL felt it was not within their remit to deliver a verdict on the Gary Hamilton.

Article 13.3 states: "The (IFA) Disciplinary Committee will have full powers to deal with all disciplinary matters contained within terms of reference determined for it by the Football Committee."

However, Glentoran believed NIFL were within their rights to deliver a separate verdict on the case, as they saw the Hamilton saga as an eligibility issue rather than a disciplinary one.

Johnston said: "The Irish FA govern football in Northern Ireland and that will always be the case.

"I think difficulty can arise when you read rules in isolation. You have to read the rules together and, when we did that, we didn't feel we had full powers to deal justly with the case, as would be the case if a similar situation arose in another league, like the Amateur League or the Mid-Ulster League.

"Once the Appeals Board made their determination we acted swiftly, taking all the necessary steps including taking on board legal advice. It's important to remember that we have not given a full determination on the rights and wrongs of this case. We feel with done everything correctly within our powers."

Despite having their appeal knocked back by both the IFA and NIFL, Glentoran are still keen to peruse the matter.

Their next port of call is Sports Arbitration UK, an independent legal company who have delivered verdicts on a number of high profile cases.

In 2012, an Irish FA Appeals Board verdict was overruled after Newry City launched an appeal to Sports Arbitration that eventually resulted in Ballymena United losing their place in the semi finals of the Irish Cup.

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