Cymru Premier champions Connah’s Quay Nomads have been deducted 18 points after being found guilty of fielding an ineligible player.
As a result, the Deeside club drop to next-from-bottom in the table and now face a potential relegation battle in the lower half Play-Off Conference.
Caernarfon Town, who originally finished seventh after the opening 22 games, will replace Quay in the top six Championship Conference for phase two of the 2021-22 season.
The charges against Nomads related to the signings of former Wales international Neal Eardley and Portuguese midfielder Paulo Mendes.
Cymru Premier clubs can only sign one free agent between the end of the August transfer window and the start of the January one.
It was alleged they broke the rule by signing Eardley in October, having already signed Mendes outside the transfer window on 2 September.
But Nomads insisted Mendes’ signing was completed on 31 August, inside the permitted period for bringing players in.
FAW rules state any club that plays an ineligible player in a match will be docked three points and could also be fined.
The reigning champions have been docked three points for each of the six league games Eardley played in.
Nomads’ fate rested in the hands of an independent arbitrator today.
The FAW released the following statement this afternoon:
“On 2 March 2022, Mr William Norris QC, appointed as the sole independent arbitrator by Sports Resolutions who provide independent dispute resolution services, heard the two disciplinary charges brought by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) against Connah’s Quay Nomads (the club) alleging breaches of FAW Rules 38.1.1 and/or FAW Rule 38.1.2.
“It was found that contrary to Cymru Premier Rule 12.6(b), two players were registered to List A after the closure of the first Professional Registration period but before the opening of the second in the 2021/2022 season.
“It was further found that contrary to Cymru Premier Rule 14.1, the second player played in six (6) JD Cymru Premier matches when he was therefore an ineligible player.
“In his Summary of Decision, Mr William Norris QC detailed the following decisions:
‘I find that both charges have been proved. I fully accept that the club attempted to register Player A on the evening of 31st August 2021 and believed it had done so before the window closed at midnight having submitted documentation via the COMET system at 21:50 BST.
“However, I find that, whilst the club thought it had uploaded Mr Mendes’s contract (which I accept he had signed by then), it had not in fact done so. As a consequence, the attempted registration was rejected, notification of which was sent to the club at 23:24 (by email).
“Unfortunately, no-one at the club was checking that the process had been successfully completed which, of course, may be understandable in one sense given the lateness of the hour. Nevertheless, that was an unfortunate and regrettable omission in circumstances where compliance with the requirements of registration is critically important and when the registration was being made very late in the transfer window.
“The sanction that I must and do impose is that the club will have 18 points deducted. Given the circumstances in which the breaches of the rules have occurred and what I appreciate are very serious sporting and commercial consequences for a successful and important club in Welsh football which is run, as I accept, by good hard-working people, I do not consider it appropriate to impose any fine or fines in addition.”
The JD Cymru Premier League table has been altered to reflect the club’s points deduction and the subsequent changes to the league fixtures, due to the mid-season split, have been released.
The FAW confirmed that Connah’s Quay Nomads have no right of appeal against today’s decision as arbitration is the highest level a disciplinary matter can be referred to and is completely independent.
As the league now splits in two, Nomads will join Cardiff Met, Aberystwyth Town, Barry Town United, Haverfordwest County and Cefn Druids in the Play-Off Conference.
The New Saints, Penybont, Newtown, Flint Town United, Bala Town and Caernarfon Town will compete in the Championship Conference.
The points and goal difference accumulated by each team in Phase One will be carried over to Phase Two.
Connah’s Quay Nomads have been asked for a comment.
OPENING FIXTURES – PHASE TWO
JD Cymru Premier Championship Conference
Flint Town United v The New Saints (Friday 4th March – 19:45)
Newtown v Bala Town (Friday 4th March – 19:45)
Penybont v Caernarfon Town (Saturday 5th March – 14:30)
JD Cymru Premier Play-Off Conference
Cefn Druids v Aberystwyth Town (Friday 4th March – 19:45)
Barry Town United v Haverfordwest County (Saturday 5th March – 14:30)
Cardiff Met v Connah’s Quay Nomads (Saturday 5th March – 14:30)