NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Furious boss believes Godmanchester Rovers are the victims of Football Association incompetence

The ineligible Chris Hyem on the ball during Godmanchester Rovers' FA Vase clash with Sporting Khals

The ineligible Chris Hyem on the ball during Godmanchester Rovers' FA Vase clash with Sporting Khalsa. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

They were only given half of the blame, but they still received the full punishment.

Godmanchester Rovers manager Ollie Drake.

Godmanchester Rovers manager Ollie Drake. - Credit: Archant

That is the conclusion reached by Godmanchester Rovers manager Ollie Drake after the local club were thrown out of the FA Vase.

Rovers were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player – midfielder Chris Hyem – in their famous fourth-round victory against Sporting Khalsa on January 5. Hyem was booked in two previous rounds of the competition and therefore, under new rules introduced for this season, should have been suspended.

Rovers learned their fate at a Football Association hearing at Wembley last Thursday and it is understood they will not appeal the decision which meant Khalsa were reinstated and now travel to former winners Sholing in the fifth round this Saturday.

Rovers must hand back the £1,875 prize money earned in that 1-0 success and won’t receive the £625 that goes to losing teams in the fourth round either.

Drake revealed they have also been hit with an additional fine while Hyem was banned for the club’s league fixture against Walsham le Willows last Saturday – even though FA Vase bookings should only count towards that competition.

It has left Drake feeling Rovers have been the victims of ‘incompetence’ from the FA with an administrative error playing a part in the situation.

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He claims the club’s third-round tie against Holbeach (which they won 2-0) was wrongly updated as a United Counties League match on the FA’s ‘Whole Game System’ database by the match referee – therefore Hyem’s caution did not flag up as being in the Vase.

And he was further angered when notification of Hyem’s ban from the club’s league game last Saturday did not arrive until four hours before kick-off.

“I would love to have the opportunity to give my views on the incompetence of the FA directly to them,” said Drake. “I really don’t care if it gets me into trouble.

“The club were not informed until 11am that Chris was then suspended for our league game on Saturday. There is no way that is good enough from the FA . . . in fact I would go as far as saying it is an utter disgrace.

“The officials we are being given week in, week out are also not of an appropriate standard for our level of football.

“That is highlighted by the FA Vase issue. The tie against Holbeach in the third round went down as a UCL match and that was not changed until the day we had initial inquiries into Chris playing ineligibly.

“The FA have taken 50 per cent responsibility for the situation, but we have been given 100 per cent of the punishment.”

Rovers aren’t the only team to fall foul of the new rule as another side who reached the last 16 – Coventry United – have been removed for the same reason.

Drake admits the sweetest success of his managerial career has now become a bitter pill to swallow.

He added: “We’ve not only had a great result taken away from us, we’ve also lost our prize money, picked up another fine and have to pay Sporting Khalsa’s travel.

“We’ll end up making a big loss financially as well as missing out on the chance to progress even further in the competition.

“Everyone connected to the club is completely devastated to be out. The players feel very aggrieved and they have all my sympathy.

“I feel really sorry for Chris because he absolutely loves this club. He puts his body and his head on the line on a regular basis for us and I’m absolutely gutted that he has been caught up in a situation like this.

“We were clear winners against Sporting Khalsa and I feel we could have gone to Sholing in the next round and beaten them as well.

“This Saturday is going to really hurt when we’re sat at home or out with our other halves when we should have been playing in the biggest game most of us have ever been involved in.

“But there has been no difference in the attitude or effort of the lads. They have not let it affect them and we will do all we can to win the league title and other trophies this season.

“On behalf of the club, I would like to thank everyone who has sent messages of support in the past few days.”