Irish FA president David Martin says he still has strong faith in the Association's disciplinary procedures despite Cliftonville's success in their arbitration case against the Appeals Board regarding suspensions of two of their players ahead of tonight's Irish Cup semi-final.
The Reds opposed the Appeal Board's decision not to overturn bans handed out to Jamie Harney and Garry Breen prior to the coronavirus lockdown, arguing that, under the IFA's Disciplinary Code, they should not have to serve their suspensions once play resumed.
Both players are now free to play against Glentoran at Windsor Park this evening and the arbitration ruling from Sport Resolutions is also good news for Ballymena United as their manager David Jeffrey and defender Steven McCullough are not suspended for their cup clash with Coleraine this afternoon.
Cliftonville submitted the case to arbitration with the Sky Blues agreeing to cover part of their costs but, as they lost the case, the IFA will now foot the bill and the clubs have received confirmation the suspensions will not apply.
Martin said: "The Association fast-tracked the disciplinary process and it is satisfied with its robust procedures.
"Clubs are entitled to go to arbitration and, of course, the IFA accept the findings. Arbitration is the next step after the appeals process and we now have a resolution."
Martin added: “We can now look forward to the semi-finals. With respect to other players suspended before the lockdown, the IFA disciplinary committee will take into consideration the outcome of this case. No-one envisaged a pandemic and this changed everything but we still have a disciplinary system that works.”
Both Cliftonville and Ballymena had appealed their players’ original suspensions, arguing that the lengthy lay-off caused by the coronavirus pandemic negated the bans, however they were rejected by the IFA Appeals Board.
The clubs argued that, under Article 15.3 in the IFA’s Disciplinary Code, a suspension will be deemed to have been served in any match that is abandoned, cancelled or voided, unless the fixture was halted due to the fault of the club in question.
In response to Cliftonville’s case, Sport Resolutions stated: “I find in favour of Cliftonville Football Club. The decision of the Disciplinary Committee and that of the Appeal Board were contrary to Art 15.3 and are hereby set aside. In my judgment the League matches were cancelled by no later than the formal notification to the Club on 30 June 2020. The cancelled matches came within Art 15.3 and the cancellations were not due to the fault of the Club. The suspensions are deemed to have been served.”
It is also positive news for any player who had received a ban prior to football going on lockdown, with this ruling meaning that a whopping 324 pre-existing suspensions have been quashed.