House of Payne - Dons points deduction is not on a Premier League scale

Unfairly handled: Why has Dons' case involving Jake Nicholson been handled differently to that of Sunderland?

Unfairly handled: Why has Dons' case involving Jake Nicholson been handled differently to that of Sunderland?

First published in Sport by

Little did I know when I was writing last week’s column suggesting inequality in the way cases of fielding an ineligible player was handled that, just days later, AFC Wimbledon would be charged with that very offence.

And, yet, already the Dons have been treated very differently to Sunderland in the Premier League.

Whereas the Black Cats saw their case being hushed up until after they had paid their fine for fielding Ji Dong-Won in four games earlier this season, Wimbledon have been afforded no such luxury for Jake Nicholson’s appearance against Cheltenham last month.

FA rules say clubs found to have fielded an ineligible player shall be fined and have points gained from that match deducted although, as in Sunderland’s case, a deduction may be waived in certain cases.

As a result of the new-found transparency in the Wimbledon case, we see headlines about them “facing a points deduction” although the fact the club has been advised by its QC Jim Sturman not to reveal the background to the case suggests there are mitigating circumstances.

Wimbledon Guardian:

It's happened before: Ji Dong-Won of Sunderland

Thankfully, with the Dons nine points clear of the League Two drop zone with two games to play, any sanction will surely not have wider implications, but the fact Nicholson marked his Dons debut with a goal in a 4-3 win must put the points gained under threat.

But there is something a little bit disturbing about a case of this type being held on April 28, so close to the end of the campaign.

The football disciplinary processes have long been a thing of mystery, from the lottery of overturning red cards to the sledgehammer being used to tackle betting, which will see a blanket ban on any betting on football by all club employees at English league teams introduced next season.

But justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done, which is why it is right Wimbledon’s charge is made public – and why the Sunderland carve up was so unfair.

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