Glentoran were shell-shocked on Saturday after losing their Sports Arbitration UK case, yet now the club is faced with a dilemma.
The East Belfast side’s protest was focused on Gary Hamilton’s appearance for Glenavon, against Glentoran, back in November.
The core argument was Hamilton ought to have been serving an automatic ban having been dismissed in the previous game, but it was communicated to Glenavon he would be eligible to play.
Hamilton scored twice in the 4-2 win at the Oval, and contributed to the other two goals. It’s impossible to prove whether Glentoran would have won, were Hamilton made to sit out the game, but their point is clear.
The Irish FA waved away Glentoran’s complaint; neither their Disciplinary Committee and Appeals Board ruling in the Glens’ favour by awarding a retrospective win, and that prompted them to seek support from Sports Arbitration.
The latest blow, however, has left them in a total quandary.
As a third party, after the IFA and Glenavon, Glentoran’s case, which includes grave concerns over the possibility of missing out on a European spot by three points, is unlikely to be heard unless they take drastic steps.
The only remaining options are to advance their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport at great expense in Lausanne, Switzerland or to drop it altogether.
Arbitrator Paul Gilroy QC, who concluded Glentoran’s third party challenge was “impermissible” because Glenavon had been advised, albeit incorrectly, either by or on behalf of the IFA Disciplinary Committee that Hamilton was eligible to play and therefore the Lurgan Blues were not at fault.
Chairman Stephen Henderson said: “We remain of the view that this decision is deeply flawed. The arbitrator has accepted our original contention, supported by both the IFA and the Northern Ireland Football league that Gary Hamilton was dismissed as a named player and that therefore he should have stood suspended for our subsequent game on November 8.
“That clear-cut, unambiguous nature of the FIFA disciplinary code should clearly override any intangible notion of ‘natural justice’ in any such case.”
Yet Mr Gilroy QC was sympathetic and said Glentoran would not be liable for any costs.
Going to Lausanne and losing again, however, will be extremely costly.
It is believed those at the club are realistic, and while feel thoroughly aggrieved because of the bureaucratic blunder, will be reluctant to go further.
They also have an interesting case to represent, arguing clubs which field sides against those with ineligible players, should be considered merely as third parties.
Henderson and the Glentoran Board are expected to meet at the earliest opportunity.
“The club is disappointed at the outcome of arbitration and is currently considering the available options,” a statement said.
“It is particularly disappointing that the ruling confirms the original IFA contention that clubs faced by ineligible players are considered to be a ‘third party’ and therefore ineligible to lodge an appeal.
“We feel this sets a dangerous precedent which could detrimentally impact any club in much more serious cases than simple player eligibility.”