Belfast Telegraph

IFA Appeals Committee points to 'cornerstone' of registration in decision to reject Bessbrook appeal

Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

The Irish FA Appeals Committee has pointed to the 'cornerstone' of player registration in its decision to dismiss Bessbrook United's appeal over its expulsion from the Junior Cup.

The County Armagh side had defeated holders Enniskillen Rangers 3-1 in the semi-final last month but the decider was then postponed after Bessbrook were suspected to have fielded an ineligible player; Conor Sloan.

Sloan was found not to be registered on the Irish FA's Comet system, although United expressed their surprise, having submitted the required documentation to the Carnbane (Newry and Mourne) Football League.

The league then admitted that they had not completed the registration process for Sloan, claiming that it had got ‘lost in transit or possibly slipped through the net’.

However, the league said that it considered Sloan to be an eligible Bessbrook player care of his previous registration and the fact that he played for the club during the season.

When the matter was referred, the IFA's Junior and Youth Cup Committee (JYCC) voted, on April 10, to confirm the league's view that the player was eligible to play and therefore Bessbrook should not be removed from the Junior Cup.

Enniskillen lodged an appeal that was rejected by the Appeals Committee, although the Irish FA then launched a special investigatory hearing.

That was because the IFA had always insisted that proper registration was essential for any player to become eligible.

On that basis, the JYCC's decision was overturned and Enniskillen Rangers were reinstated to the Junior Cup.

However, Bessbrook United would then appeal that decision, claiming that the JYCC's decision should be final in line with Junior Cup rules, and that the IFA's investigatory process was 'biased'.

The Appeals Committee has now thrown out that appeal, declaring that player registration is a 'fundamental base' for eligibility and is a 'cornerstone' in the governance of the sport.

While Junior Cup rules do state that the JYCC's decision is final, the Appeals Committee pointed out that it is subject to appeal.

It rejected claims that there was bias in the hearing due to a lack of supporting information 'except speculation'.

The Appeals Committee also pointed out that there is no suggestion of deliberate wrongdoing on the part of Bessbrook United, the Carnbane (Newry and Mourne) Football League or the Junior and Youth Cup Committee.

"In fact, it is clear all these participants are held in high esteem and had attempted to resolve the unfortunate situation and impact on a winning team, of a players registration not being completed according to the IFA regulations," said the Appeals Committee.

The final decision has advised that the Irish FA Board should take steps to address the registration issues raised by the case and to remind clubs of the importance of ensuring player registration is completed.

An alleged conflict of interest during the IFA Board investigation was also rejected as the meeting is ruled as a 'forum for discussion' and the decision pointed out that the person in question played no further part, other than raising the issue.

A name discrepency on the Enniskillen team-sheet for the semi-final was written off as a 'typographical error'.

A Bessbrook United statement read: "We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the supporters for their encouragement during this time and also to all connected with opposing teams who have given us their backing."

Enniskillen Rangers will play Tummery Athletic in the Junior Cup final, with a date yet to be confirmed.

The full Appeals Committee decision can be read here.

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