The much publicised ‘MSL Gate’ refuses to go away and Pundit Arena sat down with Leeds AFC manager Deccy Feagan to get the Ballyvolane outfit’s side of the story.
Story So Far
– UCC protest due to Leeds fielding ineligible player is denied by MSL. Denied by Munster Football Association. Denied by FAI. Case is taken to arbitration.
– UCC awarded a 3-0 victory by arbitrator Max Duthie.
– UCC finish with 42 points, Avondale 41 points. Leeds relegated.
– Avondale title revoked, UCC’s new points total sees them declared as Munster Senior League champions. Leeds to play in first division.
While Avondale may have a right to feel like the biggest losers in the controversial MSL Gate that has engulfed Munster football, Leeds AFC, the team at the centre of it all, may disagree. The Ballyvolane side were deducted points by the MSL due to fielding an ineligible player, a ruling that cast Deccy Feagan’s side down to the second tier of Munster Senior League football. However, the club feel they have been dealt a grave injustice and have questioned the competence of those in the MSL.
To understand Leeds’ grievances, it’s only fair that we look at the timeline of events. The following was provided by Declan Feagan, on behalf of Leeds AFC:
August 2013 – Registration forms for Leeds players submitted to the MSL. Among the forms submitted are two registration forms for players with the same name.*
*Players shall be referred to as John Murphy Sr. and John Murphy Jr.
August – November 2013 – John Murphy Sr. played a number of games for Leeds, including a 1-1 draw with University College Cork (UCC). Player Sr. also picked up four yellow cards during this time, resulting in him serving a one-match suspension.
December 2013 – Leeds AFC apply to the Munster Senior League to have John Murphy Jr. de-registered, as he wished to concentrate on playing rugby for his school and province. This also allowed Leeds to sign another player in his place.
January 2014 – Leeds played Everton in a league game, which resulted in a 1-0 win for Leeds. John Murphy Sr. received a yellow card during this game. As a result of this caution, the MSL contacted the Leeds secretary and informed them that Player Sr. was not registered as a Leeds player. Up to this point, Leeds were unaware of any potential problems regarding his registration as both players were registered in August 2013.
February 2014 – Leeds were asked to submit a second registration form in the belief that this was due to an administration error on the MSL’s part.
April 2014 – Leeds had no more communication from the MSL until April 2014 when the Leeds AFC committee, including the manager, chairman Jason Yelverton, and John Murphy Sr., were requested to attend a meeting with the MSL to explain the discrepancy.
Leeds presented photocopies of the original registration forms sent to the MSL at that meeting and were complimented on the fact that they kept copies. The MSL committee members on the night seemed satisfied with their explanation but what happened internally after this is unknown.
Eight days later Leeds were asked to attend another meeting on the same topic but with the registrar present. One week later and to their amazement Leeds were informed that the result of the Everton game would be overturned, meaning Leeds would forfeit the game on a 3-0 scoreline and receive a fine of €50 for fielding an unregistered player. Leeds AFC appealed the decision, but it was not upheld.
Leeds then appealed to the MFA, unfortunately this was an error on the club’s part.
“We (the club) sent appeals by registered post, but never registered the appeal to the MSL resulting in the MFA’s ruling that the appeal was out of order.
“We couldn’t go to the FAI then because it was thrown out by the MFA,” commented Feagan. “We shot ourselves in the foot being honest. We should have sent both letters by registered post but we were under the belief that we only had to register the letter to the MFA and send a copy of it to the MSL”.
May 2014 – Despite gaining enough points to ensure the club’s position in the Premier Division of the MSL, the deduction of the three points from the Everton game resulted in the club’s relegation from the division.
The statement/timeline from Leeds AFC above provides a lot of questions, but little answers. Leeds AFC sent all of the club’s registration forms in one envelope to the MSL back in August 2013, but how was it that one form somehow managed to disappear en route? How did the one form (John Murphy Sr.) that had the same name as another player (John Murphy Jr.) on the squad vanish into thin air?
The belief is that the mistake was made on the MSL side but the committee was split on where the blame should fall.
When Leeds applied to de-register John Murphy Jr. in December 2013, the MSL removed the only remaining John Murphy registered to play with Leeds. John Murphy Sr. received a yellow card in January and the MSL, believing that there was no player of that name registered with Leeds, took action.
“At the second meeting in April the MSL stated to us that they believed we posted the form, but that they didn’t receive it.” explained Feagan. “It went with seventeen other copies in one envelope, so if they received one, then they would have received eighteen.”
“The biggest losers in all of this are Leeds AFC. We did everything properly, we had the points in the bag. But the Munster Senior League let us down badly. For them to take over four months to decide on something we thought was sorted in February 2014 is totally unsatisfactory, especially as we were getting to the business end of the season with five or six teams in the relegation battle.”
“On the letter we sent to the MSL in December, we stated that we ‘would like to remove John Murphy Jr.’ Why would we put him down as Jr. if there was no John Murphy Sr.? We have that in black and white and dated December 10th. John Murphy Sr had played with us the previous session and had confirmed in the first meeting in April 2014 that he signed the form at the start of the session and it was his signature on the form.”
“The MSL knew there was something wrong on their side but they were after making their bed when they deducted us the 3 points. They knew that they had to say John Murphy Sr. wasn’t registered because if he was registered, we would have gotten the points back.
“In advance of all this, we never knew that other clubs knew our business. One club in particular said they were afraid to send in a letter making an appeal because they were afraid of the MSL coming after them.”
Leeds continue to protest their innocence, and it’s not difficult to see why. How could one form out of eighteen get lost en route to the MSL? Why is it that Leeds would apply to de-register John Murphy Jr. if no other other John Murphy was registered to the club? And how did Everton know about Leeds’ supposed fielding of an ineligible player?
“The facts are that in fairness to Everton they never objected to Leeds having an unregistered player yet the registrar who was at the game brought it to the attention of the MSL committee.”
Unlike the other teams involved in MSL Gate, Leeds currently find themselves playing first division football week-in week-out as a result of a points deduction that they feel was unjust.
2013/14 was not a good season for the MSL. With Leeds, UCC and Avondale publicly airing their grievances, and a number of other clubs feeling the same way, one wonders if the current MSL committee members will last much longer. They have remained silent throughout this debacle, and a number of people have called for their resignation.
The MSL may try to weather the storm, but here at Pundit Arena we know there’s a long winter ahead.