Waitakere City 2, Three Kings United 1
Fred Taylor Park, Auckland, February 21 2016
Now here we have a pre-season friendly with one or two little sub-plots!
These were supposed to be the two sides that were relegated from the NRFL premier division at the end of last season, but instead only one of them will play division 1 football in 2016 while the other, for reasons passing understanding, makes up a thirteen team top flight.
Piecing together what happened here is a little bit difficult as details in the public domain are somewhat vague, but it appears that some sort of administrative error was made on the transfer of a player, Tom Konusi, which made him ineligible to play for Three Kings United in their first nine games of NRFL season 2015.
Where things get really controversial is whether or not the punishment fits the crime.
Is it sufficient to impose a three point deduction for the game in which the error was picked up and protested? Or once you know that the player was ineligible for nine games, should the results of all those games be amended to 3-0 losses for Three Kings?
The difference for the Three Kings club, their players and fans, is between mid-table comfort and relegation from the NRFL premier division. Should a club be relegated for a clerical error?
I can see both sides of the argument but from a fairness and consistency point of view, in my mind the answer has to be yes. Either the player was ineligible to play in those games or he wasn’t.
But the real crime here, I think most would agree, is in how long it has taken to sort this mess out! From nine games into season 2015 until pre-season 2016, we have only just obtained some certainty on the make-up of the leagues in the last week or two after a comedy of errors. First Three Kings lost one lot of three points, then they lost the rest, then they had them all given back to them, then they were stripped again, and now they are being reinstated to the premier division regardless. You really couldn’t make this stuff up.
How does this happen when surely the whole thing should have only taken two weeks at the most to make a decision one way or the other, grow a pair, and stick with it? I’d love to hear a proper explanation.
In the absence of that, what we’ve instead heard is an implicit message that if you break the rules you can just keep on appealing until everyone gets sick of the whole thing and lets you off the hook. Or, as some have questioned, perhaps there’s one set of rules for some and a different one for others? Would the powers that be have ultimately been so lenient if it was a less influential or well-heeled club in the spotlight?
In contradiction to that, part of Three Kings’ argument appears to have been that some clubs have gotten away with similar errors in the past due to no complaints being lodged. But that doesn’t wash with me. Whether or not this rule has been applied properly in the past or not, it should have been dealt with then and it should be now.
The real loser in all this will be the poor old club that finishes third from bottom in this season’s NRFL premier division, assuming Three Kings finishes above them! We have no idea who that club will be yet, but whoever they are might want to consider lodging a few appeals to see if we can’t end up with a thirteen team league for all eternity!
One strongly suspects that, for this season at least, Three Kings is going to be the team in the league that everyone wants to beat more than any other…
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.