MARINE chairman Paul Leary has criticised the Premier League’s decision to let Sunderland escape a points deduction for fielding South Korean striker Ji Dong-won without international clearance – just months after his side WERE punished for the same offence.
The Mariners had three points chopped off last season’s total in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s top-flight for playing Sean Doherty in a win over Nantwich Town, two years after he left Welsh club Colwyn Bay.
Sunderland fielded South Korean striker Ji in four top-flight fixtures earlier this season, including one in which he helped them earn a point against Southampton, without having gained the all-clear following his return from a loan spell at German club Augsburg.
He also played against MK Dons in the Capital One Cup before his ineligibility came to light. Sunderland won that game and went onto reach the final at Wembley.
They were fined in December, but it has only come to light this week. Crucially, they were not deducted the point under the terms of FA Rule 6.9 ‘Playing an ineligible player’.
It reads: “Any club found to have played an ineligible player in a match shall have any points gained from that match deducted from its record and have levied upon it a fine. The company may vary this decision in respect of points gained only in circumstances where the ineligibility is due to the failure to obtain an International Transfer Certificate.”
The Northern Premier League’s rule is exactly the same, and Leary told The NLP: “We were deducted three points and fined £100 by the FA, but what angered us was that Sean had played for AFC Liverpool and Droylsden between leaving Colwyn Bay and joining us.
“The fact we were the third English club he played for after leaving Wales was a sickening blow.
“Here we have Sunderland, who quite clearly played a player they knew had been on loan in Germany, the secretary had not applied for international clearance and he played several games.
“But the Premier League decide they are not going to deduct the point they won in one of the games, and it’s all wrong.
“The message is that they can do what they want in the Premier League, while clubs lower down, run by volunteers, have a tough battle all the time and always get punished strongly.
“If we lost the points, Sunderland should lose the point from the game in which their player appeared. They benefited from his contribution in a game he shouldn’t have been playing in.
“What we want at all levels of the game, from the Premier League down to Step 7 or below, is consistency. That clearly isn’t the case.”