The manager of a youth football team said he was ‘devastated’ after his team, Barnham Trojans U15, were stricken with illness, injury and one player was hospitalised in a serious car collision.
The team’s numbers dropped from 16 to eight leaving them unable to play, manager Duncan Terry said.
“I was devastated for the kids. They were really upset. [Sussex Football Association (FA)] weren’t interested in the car accident and didn’t once ask about it. All they were interested in was playing the game on the day,” said Duncan.
A spokesman for the Sussex FA said when the decision was made, the children’s welfare was kept in mind.
Duncan continued: “Parents didn’t think it was fair to play with just eight players – I have a duty of care.”
The team had to forfeit a chance at victory for the Under 15s Sussex County Cup but Duncan said even reaching the final was ‘a massive achievement’.
“The chance to come along and play is once in a lifetime.”
At training days after the news, the team’s morale was low but has since begun to pick up again.
“The kids don’t understand why they have been punished for being injured.”
A letter was sent by Duncan to the Sussex FA asking for the players ‘not to be punished’ and highlighted the steps the team had gone to to try and ensure they would be able to play, including asking to borrow players from other teams in order to play the game.
Part of the letter read: “I cannot raise a team today. This is easily my lowest point.
“Getting to the county cup final is a massive achievement but with injuries and concussion and now flu to a player I have a duty of care to have to say no to eight players playing today.”
The plea was declined by the FA. However, a match between Brighton and Bognor took place on Tuesday night after being re-arranged twice.
The first time, because Brighton had another game the day before – Bognor agreed to re-arrange. The second date was re-arranged after Bognor only had eight fit players – Brighton agreed to re-arrange.
The Sussex FA agreed to both of the re-arranged dates and there was no sign of either team being disqualified.
Duncan said: “It’s one rule for one and one for another.”
A spokesman for the Sussex Football Association said: “Following a sub-meeting of the Sussex County FA’s participation working committee it was determined that the Sussex Stan Beattie Memorial Trophy (Under-15s) sponsored by Gardner & Scardifield will be awarded to AFC Varndeanians.
“The decision was reached after taking into account the extenuating circumstances of Barnham Trojans but also wanting to ensure that the spirit of the game is upheld.
“The last thing the Sussex County FA wishes to do is to deprive the players their opportunity of participating within a final, so when making the decision the best interest of the children involved were kept at the forefront of their minds.”
Following the response from Sussex FA, Duncan added: “It’s not really an answer on why. They haven’t put the kids’ interests first.”