By Bill George
THE report of the FAI Legal Affairs Committee on the Paul Marney case next week is likely to impact on St. Patrick's Athletic's attitude to losing their appeal in the Mbabazi Livingstone case that cost them 15 National League points and
The Legal Affairs Committee is expected to produce a report next week into the background to the Paul Marney case in which St. Pat's first had nine points deducted only to have them restored on appeal.
The two cases are similar in many respects but different in one aspect. Pat's succeeded in having the nine-point penalty rescinded in the Marney case when they claimed they had, in fact, posted the relevant forms to the League.
The accusation that Livingstone had not been registered until he had played five matches has not been denied.
The Marney case is obviously the more complicated and, in this respect, the conclusions presented by the Legal Affairs Committee next week may be the more influential. In Livingstone's case, it was a straightforward failure to register the player, the facts are not as clear-cut in the Marney case.
The three FAI officers sitting in judgement of the Marney case are Messrs Michael Cody, Brendan Dillon and Paddy Goodwin.
The decision of the FAI appeal board to dismiss St. Pat's appeal in the Livingstone case confirmed Shelbourne's position as League champions. They qualify for the Champions' League competition as a result with Shamrock Rovers, as runners-up, claiming a spot in the UEFA Cup.
St. Patrick's Athletic were not responding publicly yesterday to the latest decision of the appeal board. Reports suggest that they might dispute the issue through the legal system but it is more likely they will await the findings of the Legal Affairs Committee before making any decision.
Shelbourne Chief Executive Ollie Byrne said the decision had not surprised him: "It is very simple from our point of view - we always knew we were champions, the decision of the FAI merely confirmed that.
"To be champions you must do two things - you must win more matches and you must comply with the rules. We have done that more than any other team and consequently we deserve to be champions.
"The only people at fault here are the St. Patrick's Athletic administrators."
The League have embarked on a mission on foot of these two cases and they intend to check the registration of every player in the League. In any case, where a team played a player who was not registered they will impose the full penalty of the law, i.e. deduct three points for every match in which he played.
The suggestion has been floated that, if the League turned up a number of unregistered players, then the clubs might agree to an amnesty on the issue for this season. If this were the case then St. Pats would have their points restored and would be placed first.
"My information is that the League have already examined 1,200 registrations and apart from a couple of minor errors, the investigation turned up nothing seriously wrong," said Mr Byrne.
"St. Pat's themselves examined the registrations of some of the players and I'm quite sure they found nothing wrong with our registrations so I'm not concerned about an amnesty.
"I think the registration system has stood the test of time and there is a big difference between discovering some minor discrepancy in a form that is registered with the League and playing a player for whom no form has been submitted."