By Robin Jones
ILFORD are celebrating after the FA backed their appeal against expulsion from the Essex Senior League.
At the league’s annual general meeting on June 21, members voted 18 to six to expel the Cricklefield Stadium outfit for failing to pay £630 in fines and a subscription before a deadline.
But Ilford, who finished sixth last season and had been planning a bid to the championship in the new campaign, blamed the failure on an administrative mix-up following a major change in the club’s committee when 12 new members were appointed, since when the debt had been paid in full.
At an appeal hearing at Wembley last week, the FA ruled that the league’s decision to hold a secret ballot on the expulsion was out of order.
Furthermore, Ilford had not been given the statutory 14 days’ notice of being booted out of the competition. After their victory, Ilford were immediately reinstated into the league.
Just as the Conservative government has been forced to drop its manifesto pledge for a free vote on the legalisation of foxhunting in the House of Commons, so football’s Foxes have now survived to fight another day.
Ilford boss Allan Fenn has been left counting the cost of the uncertainty left hanging over the head of his club, and whether they would find a league to play in next season.
He said: “We have lost 12 players over a three-week period. Other clubs approached them and told them we wouldn’t have a league to play in next season.
“However, the upside is that there are about a dozen players who have been with me for the past two years who agreed to wait until the FA made their decision on our appeal.
“They have now signed and we are a tighter group because of this.
“It seems that the league were badly advised by the Essex FA. The secret ballot should not have been held, and it was ruled that we should have been given 14 days’ notice of expulsion.
“I need to give Essex Senior League president Robert Errington and secretary Michelle Dorling credit as both said we don’t want Ilford removed from the league and it was just the clubs that didn’t want us in there.
“The outstanding fines were due to an administrative error, and have been paid in full. I’m delighted that common sense has prevailed.”
Fenn, who was three times captain for Ilford as a player and who is now in his second spell as manager, has recruited former Maidstone United player Billy Cove as his new assistant. Thursday saw eight new players in training with the club.