WORD FROM THE CONFERENCE
Brian Lee, chairman of the League's governing body, has issued an
statement regarding the fielding of unregistered players this season.
"The Football Conference Sub-Committee has concluded their review of the
organisation and procedures at the Birmingham Office. Since Mansfield
discovered to have played an unregistered player in the first week of
season, random checks of team sheets using a similar system to those
in other Leagues, found three other clubs had also played unregistered
These clubs were also dealt with in accordance to the rules. Whilst the
of rules quite naturally attracted a lot of attention it is important to
that 21 clubs in the Blue Square Premier, and 64 clubs out of 68 in the
competition had abided by the rules. "The Review Sub-Committee would
emphasise to all clubs that it remains their sole responsibility to
all players are correctly registered before making them available for
To play an unregistered player is an absolute offence for which the
the deduction of points. The Board of Directors recognise that they have
working and committed staff in the Birmingham office who have received
amount of criticism over the last few months. The continued support of
who continue to have confidence in them, has been most welcome. The
Conference has also received negative communications and in some cases
unwarranted abuse via Supporters' Trusts. These groups have been unaware
the facts and the legal implications both of clubs complying with the
the absolute obligation of the Board to apply the same. Communications
sort does nothing for the game we all love or the clubs they support.
Sub-Committee are satisfied that all the necessary office systems are in
but will continue to monitor and observe any new procedures being
the national game that will further enhance the operations of our
and the communications with our clubs, supporters and partners."
AND FROM OUR FRIENDS AT OXFORD UNITED IN RESPONSE TO THIS:
We don't know whether they have a database as such. In terms of
registration, it is a world of postal forms with tear-off slips returned
to confirm registration. From November, the form used to notify the
Conference of a squad for a match now includes the players' registration
numbers. This is a step forward, the clubs now have a step to complete
which will flag up a problem i.e. now that they have to enter the
player's reg no, they will know that if they can't find one, the player
may not be registered. The Conference has only done random registration
spot checks on squads rather than a full check on every squad. It is
unclear whether they will henceforth be checking each player in each
The letter we sent to Mr Lee reads as below - I'll leave readers to
judge where the abuse lies.
OxVox (Oxford United Supporters Trust) c/o Trevor Lambert, Address
Stags Fans United (Mansfield Town Supporters Trust) c/o Martin Shaw,
Chairman, The Football Conference Ltd
31-34 Waterloo Street
Birmingham B2 5TJ
10 March 2009
cc: Lord Triesman, Chairman, The Football Association
Dear Mr Lee,
Thank you for your letter of 24 February with regard to the Supporters'
Petition which OxVox delivered to the Football Conference offices in
Birmingham on 19 February 2009.
We are pleased to learn from your letter that the petition was presented
to the Conference Directors at their Board Meeting of 23 February 2009,
and that the Board at that meeting 'acknowledged the concerns of the
Everyone involved with Conference football has suffered as a result of
this fiasco. The Conference Football product is devalued in the eyes of
supporters, and perhaps sponsors, if there is a perception that the
competition is poorly administered, and that points, and ultimately
League positions, are determined in part by central administrative
shortcomings. What is needed are steps to convince everyone that the
Conference is being run professionally, as befits the highest levels of
the non-league pyramid.
As we are sure you appreciate, five thousand football supporters took
the trouble to sign the petition online or in person during the period
of approximately two weeks during which it was running. These included
many supporters of the four clubs, Oxford United, Mansfield Town,
Crawley Town, and Bognor Regis Town, who have each suffered points
deductions during the current season, but also significant numbers from
other Conference clubs and clubs in higher Leagues.
We do of course welcome the review being undertaken by the Conference
and appreciate that such a review takes time if it is to be
comprehensive and set down improvements for the future. However, we
would urge your review team to make their findings known as soon as is
We hope that you will consider and clarify:
a) Whether the penalties outstanding for the clubs in the current season
are in fact justified, in the light of the apparent shortcomings in the
registration system which gave rise to the penalties.
b) In particular, whether the system in place until November, which did
not apply consistent registration checks to all players in each squad in
each round of matches, amounted to a randomness of approach, and
therefore to penalties which were unfair between clubs.
c) Whether, following the registration problems at four Conference clubs
coming to light, the Conference carried out a comprehensive review of
all clubs in the Conference Premier, North, and South, to establish
whether the problem was more widespread. If so, what were the findings
of the review? If there was no such comprehensive review, why not, and
how can you be confident that the four teams in question are not being
d) Whether or not a full points refund is the most equitable solution
this season, given the problems raised with the current system.
e) Whether the potential and actual penalties for registration anomalies
are proportionate to the offence. It is surely inappropriate to deduct
five points, four points, seven points, or indeed potentially many more
for a simple paperwork error, when falling into administration with all
that that entails attracts only a penalty of 10 points.
f) Whether you feel in principle that points deductions are appropriate
for matters of this kind. Many will feel that points should be won and
lost on the field of play and not in a committee room.
We trust that your announcement will detail any and all changes to your
rules and administrative procedures, as this will go a long way to
helping to restore supporter confidence in the Conference. Please could
you confirm the date for the completion of the review and for the
publication of its findings, both to clubs and to supporters. Why is it
not possible to issue the review findings immediately?
We would like to see a stated date, because we are confused about your
plans. The implication of the initial statement on the Conference
website was that the results would be announced on February 23rd, though
a close reading of the wording of that statement admitted the
interpretation that the review team would simply report back to the
Conference Board on that date. More recently, you wrote that 'A
statement MAY (your capitals) be made following the Appeal Hearing on
Friday 27 February 2009'. Now we hear that the review may not be issued
until the end of the season.
We find it completely unacceptable that the publication of the review
team findings may now be kicked into the 'long grass' of the close
season. Supporters and clubs deserve better than that. Your findings
will be awaited with interest by all Conference clubs and their
Trevor Lambert Martin Shaw
(on behalf of OxVox, (on behalf of Stags Fans United,
Oxford United supporters trust) Mansfield Town supporters trust)
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