Our scheduled FA Trophy match against Nantwich, bizarrely scheduled for tomorrow night has been called off. Shaw Lane, rather predictably appealed the decision to expel them from the competition, less than 48 hours before we were due to play Nantwich.
The decision to expel them from the Trophy is farcical at best given the circumstances of their supposed misdemeanour. Many of you will already know what they did, but for those not in the know I’ll cover the basic points.
They beat Nantwich 3-1 in the last round, with their leading scorer Alex Byrne featuring, although he didn’t score. He was booked during the game, a booking which Shaw Lane felt was his fourth of the season. Byrne himself raised concerns that he’d been booked playing for his previous team, meaning he felt he was on five and perhaps due a suspension.
Further investigation showed he actually had two bookings, and therefore should have been suspended for the Nantwich game. It appears that Shaw Lane had (correctly) registered him as Alexander Byrne, but his previous club, Northwich Victoria, had registered him as Alex Byrne. Furthermore Northwich had allegedly got his date of birth wrong as well. This created two Alex Byrne’s on the FA system, one with two bookings and another accruing additional bookings at Shaw Lane.
The craziest thing is that it was Shaw Lane who raised these concerns with the FA. It was Shaw Lane who spotted the inconsistency, and it was Shaw Lane who approached the FA for clarification. It was a flawed FA system that caused the issue, and like a petulant child they first postponed the Ducks match against the Imps, and then expelled them from the competition. Shaw Lane haven’t really done anything wrong, the FA system should flag up when a player is suspended, but in this instance it couldn’t due to circumstances outside of his clubs control.
By taking the course of action that they have, the FA have shown no empathy towards Shaw Lane whatsoever, nor have they showed any decency towards Nantwich and the Imps. They’ve also washed their hands of any blame at all for an antiquated and flawed system. To expect us to travel to Nantwich with just a couple of days notice was bad enough, but to then have to rearrange it again because of the inevitable appeal was amateur.
The best course of action as far back as last week was to have a replay between Shaw Lane and Nantwich, with Byrne suspended, with the winner playing us on December 20th. Our game at Solihull would need to be shifted of course, but it has already made way once for a cup game, so there’s no reason why it couldn’t be moved again.
The FA cannot save face here, they’ve lurched from handling the initial problem badly to serving up a solution badly as well. Now they have an appeal to hear, and I’m sure I’m not alone in assuming they’ll probably make a hash of that as well. For that reason I hope they read my blog, because I am about to offer a solution.
Their only course of option on appeal must be to have a replay between Nantwich and Shaw Lane. Shaw Lane haven’t deliberately cheated the system and they shouldn’t be punished as if they have. Having Alex Byrne on the pitch did give them an advantage though, and to that end Nantwich do deserve another crack at the Ducks. A replay was the most sensible course of action last week, and it is still the only sensible outcome.
It does mean that the timescale has got too tight to schedule in our clash with the winner before Christmas, so I’d suggest leaving Solihull where it is and looking at something midweek in early January. The second round is due to be played on January 14th, perhaps Tuesday 4th or 10th we could travel to whichever side win their replay? We travel to Ipswich on the 7th, and should we get through the first round we’d then be away at Gateshead on 14th, but it seems like the only fair solution.
All of this messing about could have been saved if they’d made the just and fair decision in the first place, but the FA seem intent on ensuring they do things the hard way at present. Whichever option they take it will potentially leave us with three away cup games in the space of a week or so, something not entirely fair to a team also fighting for promotion to the Football League.
I’m am also interested to know if there will be any sanctions for Byrne’s former club, Northwich Victoria. If it is found that they have entered incorrect or inaccurate details onto the system, surely some of the blame lies with them? It might sound harsh but this whole debacle has cost Shaw Lane money, it’s cost Imps fans money and it is going to cause further inconvenience as the days wear on. If Northwich are to blame for anything then they need to be factored into the FA’s decision.
I saw a news headline this morning that said the FA can’t reform because of ‘old white men’ who block every move for change. If their recent decisions are anything to go by, the sooner we move towards some sort of reform the better. It doesn’t need to be widespread either, just try and get a couple of blokes on the board who do things the fair way, and apply common sense where applicable, because at present that is sadly lacking.