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Appeals Committee upholds Kotoko appeal against DC decision

The GFA Appeals Committee has upheld the appeal filed by Asante Kotoko which sought to overturn the decision of the Disciplinary Committee dated 1st September, 2015.

Asante Kotoko appealed against the decision of the Disciplinary Committee which ruled that the Elite Clubs Competition matches were not official matches and therefore the player could not have served his suspension by sitting out in the Kotoko vs. Dunkwa United match. 

The player was therefore adjudged to be unqualified when he featured for Hearts on the 2nd August, 2015, after he had featured for Kotoko in three previous matches upon his 3rd caution.

As a result , Kotoko suffered a forfeiture of the said match by deduction of six points from their total points and Hearts were awarded 3 goals and 3 points in accordance with article 34(2) of the General Regulations of the FA. A fine of GH¢5,000.00 was also imposed on Kotoko.

Below is the full decision of the Appeals Committee :

PANELISTS

1. ALHAJI FAROUCK SEIDU - VICE CHAIRMAN
2. VINCENT AIKINS - MEMBER
3. CLAUDE OPPON - MEMBER
4. DIVINE SUNU - MEMBER
5. KWAME TAKYI - MEMBER
6. DANIEL ODURO - SECRETARY

1. This is an appeal by Kumasi Asante Kotoko SC (hereinafter referred to simply as “Kotoko”) against the decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the GFA dated 1st day of September 2015.

2. The facts of the matter are that a player of Kotoko by name Obed Owusu was cautioned in three (3) matches, namely, Match Day 1: Aduana vs. Kotoko played on the 17th January, 2015, Match Day 7: Ashgold vs. Kotoko played on the 11th February, 2015, FA Cup Semi-Final match: Aduana vs. Kotoko played on the 10th June, 2015. (We wish to mention that the 4th caution the player received in the match between Kotoko vs. Ashgold played on the 26th July, 2015 is irrelevant as far as the determination of the appeal is concerned).

3. Upon receipt of the said cautions (yellow cards) article 39(5)(a)(v) of the General Regulations of the GFA forbids the player from participating in the next official match.

4. According to Accra Hearts of Oak (hereinafter referred to as “Hearts”) Obed Owusu having been cautioned in 3 previous matches mentioned hereinabove, was not supposed to take part in the next official match being the premier league match on Match Day 22 between Kotoko vs. Berekum Chelsea played on the 19th July, 2015 at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, Kumasi, however, with utter disregard for the rules of the FA. Kotoko fielded the player not only in the said next official match but also used him in two (2) subsequent matches preceding the one in issue. Those matches were WAFA vs. Kotoko and Kotoko vs. Ashgold.

5. It is the submission of Hearts that having failed to sit out in the next official match subsequent to the accumulation of the 3 yellow cards, the player became unqualified or ineligible when he featured in the premier league match between Hearts vs Kotoko played on the 2nd day of August, 2015 at the Accra Sports Stadium.

6. Kotoko did not dispute the fact that the player in question actually received the said cautions but it is their case that the player served his sanction by sitting out in the Elite Clubs Competition match between Kotoko and Dunkwa United played on the 15th July, 2015. To Kotoko, having served the said suspension, the player was eligible or qualified to feature in subsequent matches including the one between Hearts and Kotoko played on the 2nd August 2015.

7. The Disciplinary Committee in its decision dated 1st September, 2015, ruled that the Elite Clubs Competition matches were not official matches and therefore the player could not have served his suspension by sitting out in the Kotoko vs. Dunkwa United match. The player was therefore adjudged to be unqualified when he featured for Hearts on the 2nd August, 2015, after he had featured for Kotoko in three previous matches upon his 3rd caution.

8. As a result of fielding an unqualified player, Kotoko suffered a forfeiture of the said match by deduction of six points from their total points and Hearts were awarded 3 goals and 3 points in accordance with article 34(2) of the General Regulations of the FA. A fine of GH¢5,000.00 was also imposed on Kotoko.

9. It is this decision that Kotoko was dissatisfied with and accordingly mounted this appeal praying this Committee to quash or overturn the said decision.

10. A determination of this appeal hinges heavily on the resolution or determination of what an “official match” of the GFA is and that will ultimately put to rest whether or not the Elite Clubs Competition matches are official matches.

11. Before this particular issue is determined this Committee will like to take the opportunity to first address another aspect of the case which the Disciplinary Committee did not see the need to address adequately. We shall do this without prejudice to the main issue of what constitutes an “official match”. 

12. That is, if a player received three yellow cards/cautions in 3 previous matches and therefore is automatically suspended from taking part in the next official match as required by article 39(5)(a)(v) of the General Regulations and yet the player in question goes ahead to play in the next official match, however, due to one reason or another the team the player played against failed/refused to protest in accordance with Article 34(7) of the General Regulations, but somehow the FA got to know this. Should we say that because there was no protest the player and his/her club should go unpunished? Worst of all is, where the player goes ahead to play subsequent matches like in the Obed Owusu’s Case. 

13. Granted without admitting that the Elite Clubs Cup Competition matches were not official matches, it means that Obed Owusu should have sat out in the Kotoko vs. Berekum Chelsea match played on the 19th July, 2015 as being alleged by Hearts. The player did not sit out and Berekum Chelsea also failed to protest and he went ahead to play in the WAFA vs. Kotoko match played on 22nd July, 2015, Kotoko vs. Ashgold match played on 26th July, 2015 and finally Hearts vs. Kotoko played on the 2nd August 2015. Can we say that Obed Owusu remained unqualified even after the Kotoko vs. Chelsea match? Does it mean that WAFA, Ashgold and Hearts could protest and be successful after the player failed to sit out in the Berekum Chelsea match? 

14. Article 39(5)(a)(v) states “Without prejudice to the powers of the Disciplinary Committee, a player cautioned by a Referee for; any other offence on the field of play, shall be informed in writing by the GFA for a first and second offence; he shall be automatically suspended from taking part in the next official match for any other subsequent offence.”

15. What the article is simply saying is that a player shall be notified or informed in writing upon his/her first and second cautions and if the player is cautioned the third time he/she becomes ineligible for the next official match. We wish to repeat that the player is ineligible or suspended automatically for only one match. The player’s ineligibility or suspension cannot be postponed to subsequent match(es).

16. In the instant case, Obed Owusu upon receiving the third yellow card or caution in the FA Cup Semi-Final match between Aduana Stars vs. Kotoko played on the 10th of June 2015, he was automatically suspended or became ineligible to feature for Kotoko in the next match being the Kotoko vs. Berekum Chelsea played on 19th July, 2015.

17. For one reason or the other, Kotoko featured Obed Owusu in the said match, his ineligibility notwithstanding. Clearly Kotoko had to be sanctioned or punished for using an unqualified or ineligible player in that match, however, the FA could not sanction Kotoko without a protest properly filed and paid for by Berekum Chelsea. Article 34(7) as amended states “For the avoidance of doubt, a team shall forfeit a match under this Article 37(1) in consequence of protest duly filed within the time limited for filing of protests under these regulations”. 

18. It is the respectful view of this Committee that if Obed Owusu was unqualified when he featured for Kotoko against Berekum Chelsea his said ineligibility ended after that particular match whether or not a protest was duly lodged. Therefore at the time Obed Owusu featured for WAFA, Ashgold and Hearts he was qualified to feature and Hearts had no basis protesting. The Disciplinary Committee, with all due deference was wrong in coming to a conclusion that at the time Obed Owusu featured for Kotoko against both Ashgold and Hearts he was unqualified. If that position was taken to be correct then at what point will the player resume his eligibility. Is he going to remain ineligible for the rest of the season? Again, can the player decide on his own to sit out in any subsequent match after the Berekum Chelsea match in order to satisfy article 39(5 (a)(v). That will be unacceptable because it will create the platform for players and teams to decide which match to sit out instead of the next official match after the third yellow card.

19. Having said that, is it the case that if a player becomes automatically suspended for a particular match and yet went ahead to play that match he and his club should be left unpunished because no protest was duly lodged by the affected or appropriate club? In the instance case, for example, can we say that because Berekum Chelsea failed or refused to protest, Obed Owusu and Kotoko should go unpunished even if the FA becomes aware of the said infraction?

20. In our opinion, if the FA has to rely on protests by clubs to punish or sanction a player who had attracted three yellow cards, then it means clubs have been empowered or mandated to indirectly determine whether or not such an offending player or club should be punished. Take a hypothetical case where a player was cautioned for the third time and this was brought to the attention of his club by the FA or the match commissioner at the pre- match technical meeting and yet the club in defiance went ahead to feature the player in the next official match.

The affected team or club for one reason or the other refused to protest, what can the FA do? We shall be setting a very bad precedent if punishment to a player who is caught by article 39(5)(a)(v) of the General Regulations is left in the hands of protesting clubs. The integrity of the sport will be badly dented. To avoid such situation to occur, if a player attracts three cautions and becomes automatically suspended to take part in the next official match and yet goes ahead to take part in the next official match and the team that he played against failed to lodge a protest within the stipulated time, no other club can protest in subsequent matches that the player took part, however, anytime thereafter that the said infraction is brought to the attention of the FA either by a petition, protest, letter, newspaper publication or any other means, the FA shall punish the club depending on the results of the match in question. If the team won the said match, 6 points shall be deducted from its accumulated points builds up, if it drew 4 points will be deducted and even if it lost the said game it will still suffer a deduction of 3 points however, if the affected team did not protest within the stipulated time then it shall not benefit by being awarded any point.

21. Now taking the instant matter as a typical example, once the infraction was brought to the attention of the FA via the protest lodged by Hearts, Kotoko will suffer point deduction depending on the results of the match between Kotoko and Berekum Chelsea however, Berekum Chelsea will not benefit in anyway due to the fact that it failed to file a protest.

22. In the same vein, Hearts which protested is only a “gracious informant” and will not benefit from the protest. We wish to say that the Committee had the opportunity to read the decision of the Disciplinary Committee sitting as an Appeals Committee in the case of ROCKETS FC vs. AMAJANDE FC in which the facts are on all fours with the instant one and we agree with the said decision intoto. 

23. Now, let us come back to the main issue or ground of appeal being whether or not the Elite Clubs Competition matches and for that matter the Elite Clubs Competition match between Kotoko and Dunkwa United was an official match.

Official match has been given various definitions in our regulations.
Article 5(5) of the Disciplinary Code of the FA defines Official Match as “A match organized under the auspices of the GFA for all of the teams or clubs in its sphere of operation; the score has an effect on the right of participation in other competitions unless the regulations in question stipulates otherwise” whilst Article 39(5)(b)(i) of the General Regulations of the FA defines “Next official match” simply as “a match in either the league or FA Cup Competition.”

Again, the definition section of the GFA Regulations put the definition of official matches as “matches played within the framework of organized football, such as national league championships, national cups and international championship for clubs, but not including friendly and trial matches.”

24. The Elite Clubs Cup Competition is opened to the entire Premier, First Division and Second Division Clubs. It is a combination of both knockout and league models. Due to its complexity and novelty, special rules were made in addition to the GFA Statutes, Regulations, General Regulations and the Disciplinary Code to govern same.

The preamble of the Special Rules states “These Special Rules have been made to ensure the smooth running of the Elite Clubs Cup Competition in view of its novelty and complexity. To this end though the competition shall as far as necessary be governed by the GFA Statutes, General Regulations, Regulations and the Disciplinary Code certain aspects have been modified or revised.”

25. From the foregoing, it’s the view of this Committee that the FA and for matter the framers of the regulations/rules for all intents and purposes wanted the Elite Clubs Cup Competition matches to be official rather than friendly or trial matches. In the first place, there is no doubt that the Elite Clubs Cup Competition is a national league championship played within the framework of organized football. All fines applicable to the premier league also apply to the FA Cup and the Elite Clubs competition matches for the same offence, Refer Article 39(8)(a) of the General Regulations as amended. By this article, the Elite Clubs Cup matches were put on the same level as the premier and the FA Cup matches as far as sanctions are concerned. This makes the Elite Clubs Competition matches official just like the premier and the FA Cup matches. It is therefore important to note that the official nature of matches under the Premier, FA Cup and Elite Clubs Competition is symbolized by the fines and sanctions that they attract. It is therefore not surprising that the modified rules governing the Elite Clubs Cup Competition states clearly that “Any sanctions received in this competition that has not been fully served during the competition must be served in the next match(es) of any competition sanctioned by the FA, e.g. the FA Cup and League Competitions.”

26. If sanctions not fully served in the Elite Clubs Competition can be carried over to an FA Cup or the premier league match then the reserve is also acceptable or true, meaning sanctions not fully served in FA Cup and/or League matches can also be carried over to Elite Clubs Cup Competition matches. The only common factor that cuts across these three competitions is their official nature. Equality, they say, is equity.

27. Having considered the various definitions ascribed to official matches we cannot but to conclude that the Elite Clubs Cup Competition matches are for all intents and purposes official matches of the FA.

28. In the circumstances, the Elite Clubs Cup Competition match played between Kotoko and Dunkwa United was an official match. Obed Owusu having sat out in that particular match has therefore satisfied article 39(5)(a)(v) of the General Regulations of the FA. The player therefore, having served his automatic suspension in the said match became eligible or qualified when he featured for Kotoko in the subsequent matches, being Kotoko vs. Berekum Chelsea, WAFA vs. Kotoko, Kotoko vs. Ashgold and Hearts vs. Kotoko. We therefore hereby uphold the appeal filed by Kotoko and overturn the decision of the Disciplinary Committee dated 1st September, 2015. The results of the match in question stand undisturbed. The six points deducted from the accumulated points of Kotoko is hereby restored and Hearts remains the loser of the said match. The GH¢5,000.00 fine awarded against Kotoko is also vacated.

Credit:GFA.com

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