Spalding United’s hopes of staying in this season’s FA Vase are now in the hands of lawyers.
The Tulips were thrown out of the competition by the FA on Monday after being deemed to field an ineligible player during their 3-0 win at Walsall Wood in the last round.
But the club announced that they would be appealing the decision yesterday – and that will be heard today at the FA’s Wembley headquarters.
A decision is expected at 5pm, with Spalding taking up the services of a highly-regarded lawyer to fight their corner.
Although the club refused to comment on their appeal, they privately believe that they have a great chance of overturning their expulsion.
That’s because of the incredible circumstances surrounding their Vase demise.
At the centre of the controversy is Garfield Robinson, a player signed from Northamptonshire-based side Kettering Nomads on the eve of Spalding’s trip to Walsall Wood on November 16.
He came on as an 85th-minute substitute as Pat Rayment’s side were leading 3-0 – an advantage they held on to.
It later emerged that Robinson was actually unavailable because of a suspension he picked up from a former club...but the player had given a false name of ‘Louis’ Robinson to the official.
Having shown Spalding officials both his driving license and passport when joining the club, his correct name – Garfield Robinson – did not raise any alarms when both the club and the United Counties League did SIX background checks on the player.
However, when beaten opponents Walsall Wood were tipped off about Robinson’s multiple identities, the Tulips found themselves in hot water with the FA.
Club officials Bob Don-Duncan and Marcus Ebdon travelled down to Wembley on Monday, where the Tulips were consequently kicked out of the Vase by an FA Sub-Committee.
Their official statement read: “Following an FA investigation, an FA Vase Sub-Committee have considered submissions made on behalf of Spalding United and concluded that Garfield Robinson was not eligible to play in the tie for Spalding United, as it was established that he was under suspension under an assumed name with the Northamptonshire FA.
“Therefore, the Sub-Committee decided that, in accordance with its discretionary powers under FA Vase Rule 1 (d) and pursuant to Rule 16 (b), Spalding United are removed from the competition as they were found guilty of playing a player that was not correctly qualified in accordance with FA Vase Rule 15 (d).”
That ruling also stripped the Tulips – third favourites to win the competition before this week’s events –of their prize money and reinstated Walsall Wood into the Vase.
Indeed, the official FA website now has Wood down to host Wisbech Town in round three on Saturday – a game Spalding had been preparing for.
In their official response, Spalding denied “knowingly fielding” the ineligible Robinson, before announcing their right to appeal.
A source from within the club now admits that the ‘best-possible outcome’ for the Tulips today is for them to be forced to re-play their second round tie at Walsall Wood.
It is now highly unlikely that Spalding will host Wisbech in the all-UCL Premier Division clash this Saturday – and the status of their Wembley dream is totally out of their own hands.