NLP Column written by Hugo Varley
It was a real shame to see the FA’s decision to remove Whyteleafe from this season’s FA Cup over what seems to have been an incredibly minor administrative mistake.
The Essex-based club were kicked out of the competition just 24 hours before their second qualifying match against St Albans after the FA ruled that an ineligible player had been played during an earlier round.
If their appeal is unsuccessful then it is believed that Whyteleafe will have to return the £6000 they received for beating Corinthian Casuals in the previous round; while a potential points deduction could also be on the cards as the ineligible player has also represented Whyteleafe in a Bostik Division One South game this season.
In some respects I see the argument that rules are rules and if one is broken then a club should be punished, however on occasions like this it is plainly clear that the FA have a completely blinkered view of the realities of Non-League football.
Clubs like Whyteleafe usually rely on the work of volunteers or part-time staff whose responsibilities stretch across numerous different duties.
It would be perfectly reasonable to expect a Football League club, who have a fully staffed administrative department, to abide by all regulations; however in Non-League the situation is completely different.
My worry is that if the FA is insistent on stringently enforcing every single rule without looking into the context of individual situations then the volunteers throughout Non-League football may decide against continuing their involvement with their local sides for fear of making a potentially damaging mistake.
It is absolutely essential that the FA develop a level of common sense with regards to their regulations and realise that a certain amount of leeway should be given in certain situations.