A source inside the club contacted me today, wanting to clarify events and make it clear that what happened was a genuine mistake – not a case of cheating.
The story centres around a player called James, or Jamie, Birch – who they thought they were signing from Central United but was in fact registered with Western Springs. The club went into the Goalnet database and registered the first J Birch they found associated with Central, not thinking to check that there might be more than one. Unfortunately the J Birch they registered was not the J Birch that they had turning up to training!
Before the season began, they made use of the new process that AFF have set up to check teams. This involves close scrutiny by a federation official to ensure players are all correctly registered with a view towards preventing situations such as this from arising. All players were checked, including James Birch, and the squad was thought by all parties to be kosher.
It wasn’t until a red card was awarded to Birch some games later that the mistake was picked up and the sanction imposed.
This story has some similarities with the Three Kings United controversy last year. And at that time my line on it was ‘the rules are the rules’ and ultimately if a team has played an ineligible player the responsibility lies with them to get things right – they should have been more careful. The sanction might have seemed harsh but it had to stand. And I absolutely stand by exactly the same line in this case.
Except, Three Kings are still in the Premier Division despite being relegated last year following the Tom Konusi affair. Unfortunately AFF have set a precedent now. Surely what’s good for the goose must also be good for the gander. How can they treat Mangere any differently from Three Kings? They must avoid the perception that there’s one rule for well-resourced central Auckland clubs and another rule for poorly resourced South Auckland ones at all costs.
The other thing that’s becoming clear is the player registration system is broken. I’m starting to understand why some clubs hate Goalnet so much and insist on retaining Club Hub! It would be interesting to know if this error would have occurred if Mangere were using the rival player registration system.
Whatever the case, this has happened too many times over too short a space of time and changes have to be made to simplify the system in time for next season.
The credibility of the NRFL is at stake.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.