Schoolboy leagues take arbitration to contest FAI overage player ruling
Schoolboy football chiefs are to invoke independent arbitration on an FAI decision which could set a dangerous precedent for underage football nationwide.
The case centres on a team in the Cork Schoolboys League (CSL), St Mary's, which fielded a player in an U-14 fixture who was found to have been overage.
Following an investigation, the CSL applied Rule 7 from within their own regulations which states "Clubs found guilty of playing an overage player or players shall be removed from the association for the remainder of the season."
This is a standard rule across the 32 schoolboy leagues in the country, both designed and proven to deter clubs from engaging in the most basic malpractice of the game.
In such cases, the remainder of a team's squad are free to join another club, thereby ensuring they can continue to remain playing football for the rest of season.
St Mary's appeal was dismissed by the Schoolboys FAI, but they received better news at the next stage of the process.
The FAI's three-person appeal committee overturned the team's expulsion, reduced the suspension of the player until March but upheld the fines imposed on the two managers.
This decision was arrived it from citing the FAI's Rule 88 on ineligibility, which sets out forfeiture of the match and fines as the appropriate sanction. Nowhere in the 600-word rule, though, does it reference overage players.
Following the decision, the Dublin District Schoolboys League (DDSL) proposed at Saturday's SFAI council meeting that an arbitration hearing should be sought.
The motion was seconded by the CSL and, in a rare show of solidarity across schoolboy leagues, received unanimous support from all delegates at the Red Cow Hotel.
Whilst the cost of such action is at least €10,000, the principal is one the underage fraternity are anxious to protect at a time when their sector is facing increasing challenges.
"This is not about the Cork Schoolboys League, it concerns all schoolboy football in the country," stated Neil Cronin from the CSL.
"The integrity of schoolboy football is based on keeping within the age grades. If that is tampered with, the entire basis of the sector is undermined.
"Schoolboy clubs around the country that play by the rules will be glad this course of action is being taken to protect their interests."