Fielding an ineligible player can be a very serious infraction as far as the rules of football are considered, potentially allowing a side to either gain an unfair advantage over an opponent or circumvent some kind of necessary legislative procedure, and as such the FIFA rules and punishments on such incidents are particularly strict. Yet, for some lower league and grassroots clubs, these kinds of administrative errors or infractions can occur for entirely genuine reasons and the total lack of flexibility that football’s top governing authorities have been willing to show to such cases leaves some of these community institutions facing the real prospect of extinction.
In Northern Ireland, one such case recently emerged with local side TW Braga who have been slapped with a hefty £8,000 fine for their failure to correctly register youngster Hassan Ayari, who is now playing in the academy setup at Sheffield United.
New York-born Ayari joined the academy at local club TW Braga shortly after his move to Northern Ireland, simply a young player keen to get involved with football local to his new home. According to TW Braga, they were told by local authorities in Northern Ireland that Ayari was able to be registered to play for the club because he was travelling on a European passport – he has been registered on four separate occasions at three different clubs prior to joining Sheffield United. Yet, FIFA’s disciplinary committee instead found TW Braga guilty of breaching their strict regulations around player registration and, in particular, that of the registration of minors, bringing about the significant fine.
These regulations are designed to be strict and rightfully so. Their main purpose is to counteract the potential trafficking of young footballers globally but, in the case of Ayari, that is far from the situation. Instead, either through understandable naivety or clerical misinformation, a local grassroots club now faces a needless, crippling bill. Northern Ireland’s governing body, the IFA, are said to be sympathetic to TW Braga’s situation but also faces a £12,000 fine relating to the case. Another grassroots club, Kilrea United, faced a similar fine not too far back either. All of it demonstrates a needless and damaging show of force from FIFA.