What price adherence to rules and regulations within the corridors of power at the Irish FA?
That question arises following the Linfield and Glentoran appeals into their initial ban from playing each other on Boxing Day and public holidays for the next two years.
The fact that they had that ban changed to a £40,000 suspended fine for the same period is not the issue for discussion here.
The most serious point arising from the hearing is that the IFA Appeals Board and the secretariat stand accused of denigrating the primacy of articles which govern the association.
And it is something all clubs and football personnel throughout the land, whether senior, intermediate or junior, should take on board if any of them in future submit an appeal incorrectly.
Let’s just consider what Article 21 says about the lodging of an appeal against a club, committee of the association, league or other recognised football body.
After any disciplinary hearing, the prospective appellant is told that they must lodge an appeal according to this article and are even advised to consult the secretary of the Disciplinary Committee if they have any doubt or uncertainties about how to go about the process.
The article makes it clear that an appeal must be in writing, dispatched by special delivery to the
Chief Executive within four days after the date of the meeting at which the decision appealed against was taken, unless for any reason it is not made known to the appellant at such meeting, in which case it must be dispatched by special delivery to the Chief Executive within four days after the date on which the decison is given in writing to the person or body concerned.
It also goes on to add that copies of the appeal “must be sent simultaneously by special delivery to the body appealed against”.
Clear enough, in plain English. But not so for some of our distinguished IFA hierarchy.
The case against Linfield and Glentoran was heard on February 16 by the IFA Disciplinary Committee and both parties told of the decison the same evening.
But the appeals were dated February 22, some SIX days later. Linfield never submitted a copy to the Disciplinary Com
mittee while Glentoran did not address their appeal to the Chief Executive.
Countless clubs in the past have been refused appeals for not fulfilling everything to the letter, while not so long ago several senior clubs were fined £1,000 for paying amateur players in contravention of an article.
When it was pointed out to the Appeals Committee that there was no valid appeal due to incorrect procedures, the Appeals Board went into overdrive to ensure the appeal went ahead.
Articles were tossed aside or the wrong interpretations put on them to keep the show on the road.
The chairman, Professor Peter Hepper, stated that the IFA did not have a chief executive.
Then came the view that the Disciplinary Committee, like the Appeals body, comes within the remit of the IFA and so it was not necessary to send any copies of the appeal.
Furthermore, it was alleged that the IFA administration told the clubs they did not have to submit copies! Even if they did, one would think they would have told Linfield and Glentoran about the other failures.
All in all, sophistry of the highest order which of course does not wash – and is unlikely to do so with president Raymond Kennedy the acting chief executive.
The appeal was heard under protest by IFA Disciplinary members and a request made that the minutes reflected the points made by those from the Disciplinary Committee who were there to defend their initial decision.
Representatives from the two clubs who were not part of the original hearing were allowed into the appeal. But the best part came at the end.
What the chairman told those
gathered to hear the ruling was not exactly the same as was issued in the Appeals Committee’s written statement.
The latter used the words ‘unjust and inappropriate’ in the following sentence: "Whilst accepting that the penalty applied is within the rules, the Appeals panel feel that some aspects of the penalty affect true supporters and is unjust and inappropriate."
But here is what was said by the chairman on the night.
"We accept the penalty was appropriate but we have some concerns over this. Both clubs must take responsibility for the actions of their supporters and can't absolve themselves from that responsibility.
In considering the penalty, we do not think the ban on Bank Holidays is in the best interests of football, genuine supporters and justified given the nature of the offence."
A different emphasis, and it shows how words can be manipulated, inadvertently or otherwise, to suit a particular standpoint.
Whether Linfield and Glentoran are better off with the suspended £40,000 fine is a matter for debate. Let’s hope it is never required to be implemented.
The Appeals Board have the prerogative to make any decisions they want.
But surely what they don’t have is the right to break articles and consequently make a nonsense of any decision that might arise from that very breach.
Or am I wrong?