Date: 29th April 2014 at 5:32pm
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Wimbledon have today released a statement following news that we have been deducted three points for having ineligibly played Jake Nicholson in the victory over Cheltenham Town earlier in the season.

As well as being docked the three points, the club have also suffered a £5000 fine which has been suspended until the end of the 2014-15 season, and will be required to pay the costs of the hearing.

Chief Executive Erik Samuelson told the Official Site that Wimbledon had no intention of appealing the decision, because although being very disappointed with the outcome, they do believe they had a fair hearing.

‘The Football Club Board greatly regrets that this situation arose and apologises for the uncertainly and distress that it has caused to supporters in the days since the hearing was announced.’

He goes on to say that being ‘fan owned’ the Board believe a greater explanation of what actually happened should be given.

‘Jake Nicholson was originally signed by the club on a multiplicity contract from February 19 to March 19 and was duly registered with the Football League.’

Samuelson explains that a ‘multiplicity contract’ is a general term used for ‘monthly/multiplicity contracts’ that can last for a single month, and then be extended with both parties agreements, as long as those months are of a whole number – ie it means they do not have to run until June 30th for example like standard player contracts – and it is an unusual option to take, and it’s only the second time Wimbledon have used such a deal.

‘On the date when the contract should have been extended, March 20, the club’s offices had to be closed due to illness, a fact which was published on the club’s website. The following day, the office was re-opened but with key staff who should have organised the extension of the MC still unwell.’

Apparently on the Saturday of the Cheltenham game, manager Neal Ardley was unaware that Nicholson had not been re-registered as had been planned, so continued to select him. The consequence of that obviously was that Nicholson was ineligible to play.

‘This is the only match in which there was any irregularity with Jake’s registration. There is no question of sanctions in respect of other league games in which Jake played, and no threat to our status in the London Senior Cup.’

Following the Cheltenham game, our error was noticed, and the club immediately notified the Football League on the Monday after the game, which was the first practical time they could. Obviously on the Sunday following the game, the manager was told of the issue, and it was decided between him and the board following careful thought, that the players would not be told so they could continue to focus on our task at hand, without this hanging over their heads – an offshoot of that is that the fans were also kept in the dark until it was announced.

Samuelson says that on March 24 he also contacted Matthew Breach, Dons Trust Chair, to explain the problem we now had and request the Dons Trust Board to conduct an independent investigation into the causes of the situation so that appropriate lessons could be learned, and procedures put in place to make sure that this never occurs again.

The investigation has been completed and was undertaken by David Growns, and was the subject of a DTB meeting on April 3. With the decision taken to not make the players aware of this, this portion of the minutes from the meeting summary were removed when that was published.

Samuelson says that on April 8 the club was aware of the charge and was in possession of the relevant paperwork and he thanks Jim Sturman QC who agreed to act for us in this matter for no cost, and prepared our responses and submissions.

Having accepted the charge as presented, Wimbledon did offer up a number of issues in mitigation and these were considered in the hearing.

‘Whilst the points deduction and fine bring to a conclusion the formal disciplinary procedures with the Football League, the DTB’s own investigation into this situation identified a number of issues which need to be addressed in order to prevent such a situation from recurring.’

Our Chief Executive does have the report’s conclusion available to him and the Board will now address them following the culmination of the hearing. ‘A review of progress in addressing the DTB’s recommendations’ is now set to take place following the end of the season.

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