Independent tribunal dismisses legal challenge brought against the FA for null and voiding part of the non-league pyramid

An independent tribunal has dismissed a legal challenge brought against the decision of the Football Association to null and void steps 3-7 of the non-league pyramid

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 3:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 4:41 pm
US Portsmouth (maroon/blue) were on course to win promotion from Division 1 of the Wessex League prior to the FA's decision to null and void. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

South Shields FC had been aiming to overturn the FA’s controversial decision, and had been financially helped by other clubs to pay for their legal challenge.

Shields were 12 points clear at the top of the Northern Premier League Premier Division - step 3, the same level as Gosport Borough - when the season was halted in mid-March and subsequently declared null and void.

An FA statement said: ‘The three person panel rejected the club’s arguments in their entirety that the decision was unlawful.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

‘The FA is acutely aware that any decision taken in such difficult circumstances would leave some clubs disappointed. However, we welcome the findings of the independent tribunal that the decision was taken after due and proper consultation and following careful consideration of the alternative options.’

The panel’s conclusion said: ‘In view of the differing compositions of the leagues, The FA reasonably decided that there was no single solution that was suitable for all of them.’

Shields said: ‘The club submitted an appeal on behalf of hundreds of supportive clubs across the country which shared its view that the original decision was flawed and taken without due consultation.

‘An arbitration hearing has now been held before a panel and although the judgement insisted it was ‘impossible not to feel sympathy for South Shields’ and similarly affected clubs, the claim was dismissed.

‘The club is grateful for all the support it received from a significant number of other clubs in making its legal challenge.

‘The process was very time consuming and expensive and the outcome is clearly hugely disappointing.

‘Our legal options have now been exhausted which is a huge disappointment to not just South Shields FC, but the hundreds of other clubs which supported the campaign and saw their own hopes dashed by this decision.’

Locally, US Portsmouth were denied probable promotion to the top flight of the Wessex League for the first time in their history due to the FA’s null and voiding.

Infinity were denied potential promotion to the Wessex League, while Moneyfields Reserves were likewise denied going up to the top flight of the Hampshire Premier League.

Moneyfields Women were also on course for promotion from step 5, before the FA also null and voided the female pyramid from step 3 downwards.