WORTHING Football Club has been fined and warned they face expulsion from the Ryman League if the mid-air antics that marred a trip home from Guernsey are ever repeated.
Rebels were “severely censured and warned as to their future conduct” at a Ryman League hearing on Thursday and the club were fined £10,000, with £5,000 suspended for two years following the incident on the flight from Guernsey to Gatwick on October 26.
Following complaints by the airline, representatives from the club pleaded guilty to “bringing the competition into disrepute” after their 4-1 defeat in the Channel Islands when they appeared before the Ryman League’s Appeals Sub-Committee in Dartford.
Woodside Road officials now have 14 days in which to decide whether or not to appeal to The FA after a number of other sanctions were handed down by the league who say the severity reflects the seriousness of the incident and a very real possibility that any repeat could see Ryman teams banned by the airline industry from flying to Channel Islands, thereby jeopardising Guernsey FC’s future participation in the League.
Apart from the threat of being “recommended for expulsion” should the offence be repeated, the Rebels were told that if they have to play on Guernsey next season, they must make alternative travel arrangements.
They were also ordered to reimburse Guernsey FC for the cost of one flight after admitting that one of their party did not qualify for a free ticket under the agreement in place between the Green Lions and the league to subsidise the costs of travelling to play on the Channel Island. Two directors at Worthing, three players and one coach are also to be charged with bringing the competition into disrepute.
Ryman League vice-chairman Nick Robinson says the board acted to protect the future interests of all its member clubs and the reputation of the Isthmian League.
He said: “The decision of the board reflects the gravity of the situation where the individuals concerned put the general public at risk. I have been with the league for nearly 40 years and this is the most serious incident involving behaviour and teams travelling to games that I have ever seen.
“The airline industry quite rightly takes matters like this very seriously and we have shown that the Ryman League also does. If all the carriers got together and agreed not to carry football teams in the future we would have an acute problem on top of protecting the good name and reputation of the league and our member clubs.”
He added: “The board hopes that this sends a clear message to clubs travelling to away matches. They must understand that they are representing not just themselves but the entire league and all our clubs.”
Since the incident Worthing FC have also held their own internal enquiry and have released two players, as well as suspending one coach and two other individuals for 28 days. Worthing joint manager Lee Brace was not on the flight in question after giving up his seat and travelling by ferry.