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Dons Trust Board statement

29 April 2014

More on the outcome of disciplinary hearing

 Yesterday the club announced that it will have three points deducted from its total for the season for playing an ineligible player, Jake Nicholson, against Cheltenham on 22 March.

 

The club has also been fined £5,000, which is suspended until the end of season 2014-15, and is required to pay the costs of the hearing.

 

The Football Club Board greatly regrets that this situation arose and apologises for the uncertainty and distress that it has caused to supporters in the days since the hearing was announced.” AFC Wimbledon’s Chief Executive Erik Samuelson stated: “We feel that the club had a fair hearing and, while very disappointed with the result, have no intention of appealing against the decision of the Football Disciplinary Committee.

 

As a fans-owned club, we feel it is right that the events are explained in more detail to our members and the remainder of this statement does so, as well as explaining the actions that we (the Dons Trust Board) should take.

 

An MC is relatively unusual and this was only the second one that the club had entered into, and the first one which the club had entered into which expired during the season. Such contracts do not therefore need to last until 30 June, unlike almost all other player contracts. Such registrations allow a club to register a player for a minimum of one month, or longer if the club and player agree, so long as it is for a whole number of months. A multiplicity contract (‘MC’) is the term generally used for ‘Monthly/Multiplicity registrations’. Jake Nicholson was originally signed by the club on a multiplicity contract from 19 February 2014 to 19 March 2014 and was duly registered with the Football League.

 

As a consequence, the club fielded an ineligible player in our game against Cheltenham Town – a game that yielded three points (with one of the goals scored by Jake).  On the Saturday of the game Jake was selected to play, with Neal Ardley unaware that he had not been re-registered. The following day, the office was re-opened but with key staff who should have organised the extension of the MC still unwell. On the date when the contract should have been extended, Thursday 20 March, the club’s offices had to be closed due to illness, a fact which was published on the club’s website.

 

There is no question of sanctions in respect of other League games in which Jake played, and no threat to our status in the London Senior Cup. This is the only match in which there was any irregularity with Jake’s registration.

 

This inevitably meant withholding this information from supporters too. The problem was identified shortly after the Cheltenham game and the club immediately decided to notify the Football League on the Monday morning – the first practical time it could do so. Neal Ardley was told of the problem on the Sunday and after careful thought it was agreed with the Football Club Board that it would be best if the players were not told, so as to avoid putting them under any unnecessary pressure at a key time of the season.

 

Given the decision had been taken not to inform the players, the discussion at the DTB meeting was excluded from the meeting summary that was published shortly afterwards.   That investigation was conducted promptly by David Growns, whose findings were considered in detail at a meeting of the DTB on 3 April. On Monday 24 March, Erik Samuelson, contacted Dons Trust Chair, Matthew Breach, to explain the problem and to request that the Dons Trust Board conduct an independent investigation into the causes of this situation.

 

Jim Sturman QC had kindly agreed to act for the club for no cost and prepared a formal submission based on statements prepared by relevant club staff. On Tuesday 8 April the club was told that it was to be charged and the relevant paperwork arrived the same day.

 

Those mitigating factors were taken into account by the FDC in its consideration of the points deduction and fine that should apply. The submission was sent on Tuesday 22 April in advance of the hearing which was held yesterday and the club accepted the charge but set out a number of matters in mitigation. The club has co-operated fully with the Football League throughout the process.

 

They include recommendations to look at means of strengthening existing processes and also to accelerate steps that were already underway to improve the working environment. The Board’s conclusions have been delivered to the club’s Chief Executive and, now that the hearing has been concluded, they will be addressed by the Football Club Board. Whilst the points deduction and fine bring to a conclusion the formal disciplinary procedures with the Football League, the Dons Trust Board’s own investigation into this situation identified a number of issues which need to be addressed in order to prevent such a situation from recurring.

 

A review of progress in addressing the DTB’s recommendations for solving these issues will be held immediately following the end of the season, while recognising that some of the issues around the working environment will take longer to address. The DTB is committed to working with the AFC Wimbledon Board to address those underlying issues.

 

Dons Trust members who wish to quiz the DTB and the Football Club Board further on the events of recent weeks are encouraged to attend the SGM on 20 May.


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