By L.K. Hewlett

St. Kitts Reporter

The manager of the Digicel Village Superstars Football Club, Franklin Maitland is calling the recent appeals hearing by the St. Kitts Nevis Football Association (SKNFA) a ‘sham’ and a ‘farce’.

The controversy over who would be named Football Association champions arose after Superstars refused to relinquish the championship cup that they won after beating TDC Newtown United Football Club 1-0 on March 21st.

Newtown lodged a formal protest to the FA one day after the match protesting the fact that a suspended player for the opposing team had been allowed to play.

Superstars were subsequently informed that they had forfeited the match because they had allowed Javed Matthew; a player who the FA said was at the time under a three-match suspension, to participate in the match. They were also told that Newtown would be awarded the championship cup.

Maitland’s team had appealed the decision on several bases, chief of which was that Matthew had already served his match suspensions.

“Javed had complied with their letter and submitted an apology dated March 19. He complied with both rule 10B and 10H when he missed four matches. We are also contending another issue, which is that according to the FA rules, red card suspensions are league specific. If you score goals in league A, they cannot be transferred to league B, and vice versa, so if benefits cannot be transferred, how can you transfer punishments? We would still challenge the ruling on the basis that the Disciplinary Committee cannot rule across competitions, the red card has to apply to the competition in which it is given,” Maitland had contended.

Maitland had said that according to the FA rules, the appeal had to be heard within 7 days, which he said, it was not. He said an appeals hearing was set up, but upon arrival he saw that the committee hearing the appeals was the FA Management Committee and not an independent Appeals Committee.

“We turned up to this meeting only to realise that the committee was made up of the same people who had made the ruling in the first place. They were supposed to set up an independent Appeals Committee to hear the appeal so that people trying to gain favour from the president of the association would not bias the decision. We read our protests and then we departed, we refused to participate in that sham. They want to set up a bogus committee and then rule? It is a joke!” Maitland told The Observer.

He said that members of the Management Committee were not supposed to be on the Appeals Committee. He added that members of the Referees Association should especially be exempt from the Appeals Committee since Matthew had been suspended for using abusive language to a referee.

He said that no communication had been made to him nor his executive but he had heard through the grapevine that the Committee, in their absence, had ruled in favour of Newtown.

“If it is that they made a ruling, no communication was made to us. Either way, it will not end there. There are two other steps that can be taken and we intend to take it to the highest level, starting with Arbitration,” Maitland stated.

The Arbitration process, he explained, meant that each side would appoint someone to hear their side and those two would decide on a third who would make a ruling. Maitland said if that does not work, he plans to take the matter to National Olympic Committee because he found that the whole affair was part of a personal attack on his team, orchestrated by the president of the FA, Peter Jenkins.

“Jenkins has had it in for Superstars since we challenged the association last year and won. Clubs were accustomed to take their nonsense and we stood up to them because we felt that they were wrong. All of this is an attempt to embarrass Superstars and we will not lie down and take it. We will take it as far as it can go,” Maitland vowed.

The Observer contacted FA president Peter Jenkins who said that as far as the Management Committee was concerned, the original ruling was intact.

“We held what was supposed to be the Appeals hearing and the Superstars Club representatives came, read a statement and walked out. They said they would not be taking part in the meeting. They were the ones who appealed and when it is time to hear the case, they leave? The Competitions Committee ruled that the cup was awarded to Newtown so Newtown is the FA champs. I don’t want to comment on exactly what actions are going to be taken in this matter because we are seeking legal advice,” Jenkins commented.

The presentation of the FA Cup is usually made during an opening ceremony to begin the season in September. The football community, clubs and fans though divided on the issue, await that time to see if Digicel Village Superstars will indeed hand over the FA Championship cup to TDC Newtown United.