Gainsborough Trinity have been kicked out of the FA Cup, after an administrative error saw them field an ineligible player.
The Blues should have been preparing for a third qualifying round tie at Stockport County this weekend, but instead they were left counting the cost of some missing paperwork.
An FA hearing at Wembley on Monday resulted in Trinity being removed from the competition, because they had played loanee Jordan Thomas in their win over Rushall Olympic in the second qualifying round.
Not only has the club’s fanbase been denied a big day out, victory at Stockport would have netted Trinity £7,500 – a princely sum for a club running on a tight budget.
A statement for the sport’s governing body said: “Following a protest submitted by Rushall Olympic, an FA Cup Sub-Committee have considered submissions made on behalf of Gainsborough Trinity and concluded that Jordan Thomas was not eligible to play in the tie for Gainsborough Trinity as he had not been correctly registered in accordance with FA Cup Rule 15.”
But Trinity claim that Thomas’ parent club Lincoln City sent the required paperwork before the FA’s deadline, the day before the Rushall game.
A club statement read: “Evidence was presented to the sub committee showing that an email with loan forms was sent from Lincoln City at 10.19am on Friday 27th September and to the Football Conference at 10.20am.”
“The Football Conference confirmed this loan, but the Football Association are saying that they never received the email.”
“The club will be looking to investigate all failings around Jordan’s loan from Lincoln and will learn from this going forward.”
“Gainsborough Trinity Football Club are proud to take part in such competitions like the FA Cup and FA Trophy and to be removed from the competition like this really hurts, but we have to move on.”
Whether or not the correct paperwork was sent in time is now irrelevant, as the FA say they didn’t receive it, and Trinity were relying on another club – Lincoln – to send the emails in time.
It would appear that the Blues played Thomas against Rushall without receiving confirmation that he was registered and eligible to play, and the risk didn’t pay off.
Trinity had until 5pm on Tuesday to appeal the FA’s ruling.
Speaking on BBC Lincolnshire, secretary Pete Wallace admitted the club needed to examine what went wrong to safeguard against a repeat.
“We’ve got to look at it as a club, I’ve got to look at it myself,” he said.
“In hindsight, things went the right way, it’s just unfortunate that we never really double checked it.”
“The onus is on Gainsborough Trinity and myself to do that.”
First team boss Steve Housham told the Standard he was unable to comment on the situation.