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*Action from the meeting of Sporting Ennistymon & Mountshannon Celtic in March. Photograph: Cealtra Communications

OFFICIALS in the Clare District Soccer League are to hold an important meeting this Monday evening whereby the chief challengers for the Maloney Hardware Premier Division title are expected to collect an extra two points.

Sporting Ennistymon’s fielding of an ineligible player in the Maloney Hardware Premier Division has resulted in appeals being lodged by both Mountshannon Celtic and Avenue Utd. The Department of Sport has also been contacted on the issue.

In what is to be a virtual gathering, CDSL officials could see a fine issued to Sporting Ennistymon and the deduction of points with Avenue Utd and Ennis Town FC the beneficiaries of two points each if this does occur.

Monday’s meeting will be a vital one as the addition of two extra points to Avenue Utd will see them leapfrog reigning title holders Newmarket Celtic into top spot, it would see Avenue on forty points and Celtic on thirty nine. It would mean a draw would be enough for the Ennis club to be crowned league champions when they meet at the end of this month.

Removal of points from Sporting would also impact on the relegation battle. While Shannon Hibs will be dropping down to the First Division, the other team to join them remains uncertain, Shannon Olympic are currently second from bottom on eight points, Sporting are in fifth position on eighteen points but depending on whether they are deducted points and the extent of which could see them fall below Ennis Town FC, Lifford FC, Mountshannon Celtic and potentially Shannon Olympic.

A successful appeal was lodged to Munster FA by Mountshannon Celtic following their clash with Sporting at the end of March where it emerged that a Ukrainian national lined out for the North Clare club without a necessary international transfer certificate (ITC).

Roslevan hosted a dramatic meeting between Avenue Utd and Sporting last month where the Ennis club dropped points when Mark Roche missed an injury time penalty to win the game and it ended in 1-1, the sides previously drew 2-2 earlier in the season. Following on from this result, Avenue lodged an objection with the CDSL.

FIFA have an exemption for players coming in from Ukraine for minors only. As per regulations, all players coming from another jurisdiction require an ITC unless they have not previously registered for a club for a period of 30 months. Issues are believed to have been experienced by Sporting when accessing the FAInet system when trying to identify the player as being from Ukraine.

The Clare Echo understands that the registration forms and the FAInet registrations for the Sporting player did not declare a ‘previous club last registered for’ and so no ITCs were requested. Had the club declared the players previously registered clubs, an ITC would have been requested from the previous club’s Association as required under the regulations. In addition, from the information provided on the registration forms and FAInet there was no reference to the players coming from clubs in the Ukraine.

Sources within Sporting Ennistymon have said they made numerous attempts to get further direction from the FAI and FIFA with no response received by the FAI before the matter came to a head. A letter issued by the President of the FAI, Gerry McAnaney in March encouraged soccer clubs across the country to welcome displaced Ukrainians. Members of Sporting Ennistymon have said they did just that and helped the player at the centre of the appeals secure employment, his new squad members also led the creation of a GoFundMe page which raised €500 to allow him purchase a bike to gain transport to his new place of employment.

Since April, the CDSL have been seeking advice and clarity from the FAI and FIFA on the matter. In correspondence to the FAI, CDSL secretary Denis Collins stressed “this issue is unfortunately hanging over the league and has consequences both at the top and bottom of our Premier table”. He advised that clubs were “getting anxious” with the wait to find a resolution.

CDSL officials held a meeting on Monday of last week where no decision was made. The meeting had been called “as a result of a protest from Avenue Utd,” regarding the Sporting player’s registration, the FAI were informed. Sporting outlined their case at this meeting.

Subsequent to the meeting, the CDSL sought clarity from the FAI to a media release from FIFA at the beginning of March on the FIFA Interpretive Note to Annexe 7 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. Under Annexe 7, the regulations detailed temporary rules addressing the exceptional situation deriving from war in Ukraine and stated, “This annexe applies to all employment contracts of an international dimension concluded between players or coaches and clubs affiliated to the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) or the Football Union of Russia (FUR), as well as to the registration of all players – regardless of their nationality – previously registered with the UAF”. The media release and clarity had not been circulated to clubs, Sporting representatives informed the meeting.

Members of the CDSL committee questioned if the annexe related to professional players only and if it covered all players including amateurs.

Correspondence issued by the FAI on Friday to the CDSL explained that the relevant section was under Rule 6 – Registrations. “The section outlines the rules for Professional players and states when an ITC is requested and if the ITC request is refused or delayed by the Ukrainian FA or the Russian FA then FIFA can issue a provisional ITC. The rule also states that it also applies to Amateur and Futsal players. For the sake of completeness, the principles outlined in this section shall apply mutatis mutandis to amateur players and futsal. Therefor, any club registering a player coming from a club in the Ukraine or Russia must request an ITC,” the FAI’s Data Registrations and Competitions Manager, Fran Gavin stated.

This evening’s meeting will now see CDSL officers discuss the clarification from the FAI. Sporting face the prospect of a financial penalty and points deduction. A viewpoint held by soccer followers in the county is that Avenue will appeal to the Munster FA if they do not get additional points while it is thought Sporting may revert to the FAI if strict sanctions are imposed on them.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Avenue Utd manager, David Russell outlined that regardless of securing extra points their focus will remain on defeating Newmarket Celtic in the final game of the season. “I know it went to FIFA who dropped it back to the FAI, there was a meeting last weekend but nothing came out of it. It has been very quiet on the Clare committee front, we’ll approach the situation on Monday morning to see what the story is, it’s not going to distract us, our plan is to try beat Newmarket Celtic on the last day of the season whatever comes of this objection. We’ll leave it in the capable hands of the Clare committee and see what happens”.

A spokesperson for Sporting Ennistymon told The Clare Echo they would wait until after an outcome was reached before commenting.

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