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FA Trophy progress piles even more pressure on Wembley ruling

Hartlepool United FA Trophy

Bedfont Sports will pile even more pressure on the Football Association to rethink the rules on player eligibility when they kick off in the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday.

The BetVictor Isthmian League club joined the wave of discontent surrounding player eligibility even before being forced to beat Grays Athletic twice in the preliminary round to take on the Canaries in Hertfordshire. Why? A communication breakdown in Romania five years ago!

The Eagles won the initial fixture at Grays Athletic 3-0 on October 12 but were charged by football’s governing body for fielding a playing without international clearance and ordered to replay the tie. On Wednesday night they returned to win 1-0, Ezekiel Bademosi scoring the only goal of the game.

It had been suggested that two of the Isthmian League South Central Division club’s players didn’t have the correct clearance to play but Bedfont provided the appropriate documents that had been granted by The FA themselves.

However, it was found that the previous club of one of the players – a team in Romania – had not applied to the Welsh FA in 2014 for clearance and therefore the chain was not complete prior to him signing for Bedfont.

Consequently, his international clearance from the FA to Bedfont was cancelled when this was raised four days prior to their first round qualifying fixture at Hitchin Town.

Having considered the evidence presented by the club, FA members, in accordance with FA Trophy Rule 16(c), accepted the club did not know and could not have known, even had they made every reasonable enquiry, that the player was ineligible and should not be removed from the competition.

However, they were still subject to any other penalty such as being ordered to replay the tie.

Bedfont secretary Terry Reader summed up their frustration in last Sunday’s edition of The Non-League Paper.

“We’re extremely unhappy with the decision,” he said.. “We don’t quite see why we have to replay the game but we’ve been told we’ve been treated leniently and been allowed to stay in the competition which has not really helped matters either.

“Their international clearance request form only asks for the last club the player played for, which we’d put in correctly.

“The worst part of it is the player is now suspended and can’t play until the Welsh FA give him clearance despite the fact he’s played in England for the past three years.

“I think they need to be clearer on their application forms if they want clubs to check every club players have ever played for and the country.”

Meanwhile, Willand Rovers and Brighouse Town were both thrown out of the FA Trophy for fielding ineligible players due to not having international clearance.

Town had requested further guidance from The FA over a Step 3 club making an approach for striker Alhassane Keita that raised the question of international clearance.

Bureaucracy

Manager Vill Powell told The NLP: “You feel you do everything right. We were diligent in how we went about it in terms of following the guidance.

“The guidance states that if a foreign national or an individual has played in another country or another FA and it’s the first time they’re playing in this country, you need to seek international clearance.

“This player had been playing in this country for five other football clubs before he joined us and played in other FA competitions this season – not for us.

“We asked for guidance before the player kicked a ball for us so we really did try to tread as carefully as we could. Unfortunately, we still managed to, unwittingly, fall foul of the rules and regulations.”

Willand added: “In October 2015, one of our players attended a university in Wales where he was registered to play. In 2016, he returned to play in Devon, having played locally before he signed to play for Willand Rovers.

“Before he was allowed to play in England, his registration should have been moved from the Welsh FA to the English FA.

“The FA stated that we had not shown enough to enquire about the provenance of the players past history stretching back to an early age until he registers for the club.”

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