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Fleet Life with Ed Miller: FA ruling does Fleet no favours

PUBLISHED: 12:29 17 December 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 23 August 2010

DUE to the hedonistic party lifestyle one must pursue before Christmas, this column is being written before the rearranged Trophy tie at Bognor where hopefully we will have progressed to face - for once - a relatively straightforward home game in the next

DUE to the hedonistic party lifestyle one must pursue before Christmas, this column is being written before the rearranged Trophy tie at Bognor where hopefully we will have progressed to face - for once - a relatively straightforward home game in the next round.

The postponement on Saturday was probably a blessing in disguise - one can only imagine a quagmire of a pitch proving to be the proverbial "great leveller" in the same way Histon's muddy, boggy swamp helped them on their way to victory over Leeds earlier this month.

The lack of Fleet football to write about, however, coincides nicely with the FA's decision - I use the word "decision" in its loosest sense - about Kwesi Appiah and his acceptance of the Barry Fry shilling.

I fail to see the point of the FA bothering to have a hearing and calling in witnesses from both clubs if, having weighed up the evidence they were initially presented with - convincing enough to make the decision to charge Peterborough in the first place - they are only going to duck the issue with a lame ruling that the case was "not proven".

The FA has a rule that clubs attempting to approach players registered with other clubs must do so via their respective secretaries and give seven days formal written notice of their intentions. Now while we are not privy to the exact timetable of events, one can safely assume that the Fleet's case alleged that Kwesi Appiah failed to report for training during the week of the Peterborough approach and had been in contact and trained with them before the seven days' notification had even expired.

This much convinced the FA that Peterborough had a case to answer in the first place so what occurred at the hearing to make the case suddenly so "unprovable"? Did Peterborough simply dispute the Fleet's timetable of events and so the FA washed its hands of it like in so many similar instances before?

If the FA cannot find it within themselves to make a decision in cases like these, then the rules need firming up - perhaps, as Fleet chairman John Moules has suggested in the past, by giving non-league clubs the same statutory protection their League counterparts enjoy when nurturing and developing talented young players.

Of course, there is also the issue that clubs in the meantime need to protect their assets - while Appiah was approached about a contract at the time of his vanishing act, he had not signed anything and no doubt the Fleet will be looking at how best to get their talented youngsters tied to the club in the future.

But neither is it financially prudent to throw a contract at every decent PASE player, however relatively "cheap" they may be - the art, as ever, lies in determining which of them can add something to the first-team squad in return for the contract investment and which are likely to play at a higher level and interest League clubs.

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