English non-league club Thurrock have been relegated after an unsuccessful appeal against a points-deduction for fielding a player who owed £16 in fines.
The player, Joel Barnett, played just four times for Thurrock in the Isthmian Premier Division this season.
But he should never have been able to play after failing to pay a fine issued while he was on the books of Yorkshire Sunday league team Wilton.
Wilton went under owing the West Riding FA money in unpaid fines, some of which were for a ban Barnett had been served for a dismissal. The fines were supposed to be shared among the playing squad, but Barnett was in prison at the time the club folded and thus claimed ignorance of the matter.
Barnett, 23, had been jailed for 16 months in October 2011 after being found guilty of affray along with his father and two brothers, following Huddersfield Town’s League One play-off final defeat to Peterborough at Old Trafford the previous May.
The Huddersfield fans were handed life bans by the club after being found guilty of attacking fellow supporters, stewards and police on May 29, 2011.
Essex club Thurrock, who apparently had no idea about the issue, were initially told they were relegated on May 7, with the season having finished on April 20.
Thurrock then appealed to the FA and Ryman League on May 24, but saw the decision upheld on Thursday.
On Friday they submitted an appeal to the European Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, calling the FA’s decision "a disgrace".
"Joel should have told us but he never knew because he was in prison," Sturrock owner Tommy South told BBC Essex.
"A club being told they were down on 7 May has never happened in the history of football has it?
"It's a disgrace. It all happened 11 months ago and what the FA and Ryman League have told us is that we should have checked this website and that, but we followed procedure by checking with our own county FA.
"It's a real mess because he got sent off playing elsewhere before he came here and got a three-match ban but nothing was flagged up."
To add insult to injury Barnett only featured four times for Thurrock before leaving for Harlow – who realised he had outstanding fines to pay, and informed the FA.
After leaving prison Barnett had a trial at Bishop’s Stortford – who escaped punishment as he only featured in friendlies – and signed for Tilbury, who were docked 18 points but avoided relegation from Isthmian Division One North.
The CAS appeal can take more than three months to be heard, meaning a decision could feasibly not be made until late October.
"Things have moved on pretty rapidly today, as this afternoon we served the FA and the Ryman League with an injunction," club secretary Mark Southgate told BBC East Sport.
"That injunction is to prevent the fixture release that is scheduled for Monday and also to stipulate that the Ryman League cannot begin the season until our appeal to CAS has been heard.
"Hopefully that will speed up the overall appeal process."
- Sports & Recreation
- Ryman League
- Isthmian Premier Division