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Was anyone reading the rules?

Filed: Friday, 6th February 2015
By: Paul Walker

So, here we are again, with our name tarnished by another brush with officialdom, this time world governing body, FIFA.

And we were all being told by our rulers--and BFS--that 'we hadn't done anything wrong, and had followed the rules to the letter'. Oh, and we were very upset with the attitude of the Senegal FA.

Seemingly, they knew the rules better than we did, and we had broken a rule. The most obvious one to implement and punish us with, the five day rule. The one that means a player who pulls out of an international squad cannot play for his club again until five days after the match he missed.

Is anyone listening inside Boleyn towers. The application of this rule when it is used in a tournament is that the said player, in our case the clearly misled Diafra Sakho, cannot play for his club again until five days after his country’s last match in the competition.

Forget all the ‘mitigation’ about medical reports, bad backs, non-flying strikers and rapid --if not miraculous-- recovery from injury. None of that matters.

The rule is there to stop clubs manipulating a situation to avoid a player being involved in internationals. It is simple, if you are selected and don’t turn up, the national FA concerned can stop you playing for those five days.

FIFA, in their infinite wisdom this week, did not in the end invoke the rule that concerned itself with deliberate skulduggery, they just used the five day rule and punished West Ham for playing Sakho in a match BEFORE Senegal were eliminated from the African Cup of Nations.

So we were not applying the rules correctly. Now the dust has settled I would like to know, and I am sure a few of you out there would too, who it was inside our corridors of power who advised that we could play Sakho at Bristol City?

Is there a minion administrator who didn't read the rules correctly? Is there an owner who thought he knew best, or is there a manager who got it wrong? Somebody, somewhere, messed up and now we are going to be ££71,000 (100,000 Swiss francs) light….not much in the great scheme of things, not even an Andy Carroll weekly pay packet.

But for a club with the Carlos Tevez thing in our recent past and all that nonsense under ’arry boy over Manny Omoyinmi playing in a league cup quarter-final when he was cup tied(a member of staff lost her job over that), it is another stain on our character.

In the Sakho case, it seemed that FIFA were going to ’do’ us under the ruling that implied deliberate deceit. But we have NOT been found guilty of faking an injury. We have NOT been found guilty of stopping the player from joining up with Senegal for their training camp or the competition proper.

The easy way out for FIFA, is that they have convicted us for an offence that takes no account of mitigating circumstances.

It took a long time on Wednesday for the media lads to cotton onto that fact, and FIFA to eventually confirm what rule they knew we had broken. So, I ask again, who inside the Boleyn told the chairmen that it was OK for Sakho to play at Ashton Gate.

Senegal would have had to specifically tell FIFA that Sakho could play in the FA Cup tie. And there was no chance of that with them no doubt considering they were being shown a lack of respect by a bully-boy club from the mega rich Premier League.

We have already openly accused them of damaging Diafra's back with treatment on a previous occasion, something that may be true but had never been admitted by the Africans. It has been suggested that legal letters have been winging their way to Africa.

And they may well consider that we have been less than co-operative--rightly so we all might say considering the worsened injury--in the build-up to the ACoN. We may not care a jot about the competition in Europe, it is just an inconvenience to lose our players for almost two months.

But FIFA care about it, as does all of Africa, and FIFA are there to protect national FAs, not clubs and they were always going to side with Senegal.

But we should have had some warning over this, because Senegal have serious previous in such cases, so used to the fact that clubs try anything they can to stop their players travelling to Africa.

And, funnily enough, that previous involved us, indirectly way back in November 2012. Big Sam should remember the game, he was our manager. Kevin Nolan should also have some recollection, he scored the winner.

The game in question was our 1-0 win at Newcastle in 2012, we were just up from the Championship, surely everyone remembers?

Alan Pardew should remember, he was manager of Newcastle that day when Papisse Cisse injured his back, was substituted and had to be withdrawn from international duty.

Newcastle faxed the Senegal FA and sent them medical records…on a back injury! And Senegal officials said they hadn't received any such records. Heard that before, jog anyone’s memory yet?

Cisse didn't travel and Senegal invoked the five day rule and he was banned from Newcastle’s next match. Again, FIFA were not bothered about medical records etc. So Cisse sat out the next game with Newcastle complaining about Senegal’s attitude. Heard that before, too.

Of course, we could have had a word with Mick McCarthy down at Ipswich. He once invoked the five day rule when he was manager of the Irish, and then when boss at Wolves complained bitterly when the rule was used against him.

Now we might have got away with this had Sakho not been rushed back into action, scored the winner and the Senegal noses been rubbed in it. Two days later they went out of the ACoN in a huff, their manager Alain Giresse---a former France team mate of Michel Platini no less-- quit his job, still complaining about our beloved Irons and BFS.

Now I have been away for a while, 40th wedding anniversary holiday of a lifetime with my good lady in Hawaii, San Francisco and Las Vegas (I just threw that in to annoy my match-going mates).

Following West Ham in the dead of night in the States is no joke, and I now have the greatest sympathy an respect for our American Hammers who have to content with Fox, MBC Sport and the various dodgy internet links that always break down.

Mind you, watching the Superbowl in a packed casino in Vegas was the experience of a lifetime.

I watch the Hull game live at 3.30 am, but Bristol City had to be observed on a iPad, watching the WHUFC club website’s written ’feed’ flickering away. I must admit to being very surprised to see Sakho's name on the bench little more than three weeks since the injury recurred.

And when he came on and scored I knew that Senegal were going to go potty. Injured or not, available or not, he should not have been allowed to set foot in Bristol that day. So who was it told the Davids it was all OK?

And you know what, I do not believe all this stuff about not flying and having medical reports to prove it. My missus has had serious back problems after 45 years of nursing, but she manages the problem. It costs me flight upgrades to bigger, more comfortable seats, and a lot of prayer. But we got through 38 hours of flying and seven flights, and she survived.

Now I know she was not fit enough to play football, but then neither should Sakho have been three weeks after a recurrence of the original Senegal inflicted problem. And anyway, in first class or private jets, people can sleep in beds, lay flat or exercise.

Senegal didn't bother to have their own medical opinion on the player, it would only have contradicted the West Ham report anyway. They could have insisted that Sakho travel to Africa, something that we could not and did not try to stop, if they wanted.

They could even have named him in their final tournament 23 man squad and hoped he improved, but the didn't do that either.

That maybe made West Ham think they had won the battle. No chance, Senegal know the rules, they have plenty of previous and knew that FIFA would back them. That five day period has now elapsed and Diafra can play for us against Manchester United.

But Senegal have made their point, so too have FIFA, and someone, somewhere inside the Boleyn is at fault. I wonder if we will ever be told who? Or did we just take a flier?

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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