A grass roots football club claim they could fold after being hit with a series of misconduct charges, suspensions and fines of over £700.
Southampton-based Infinity are appealing hefty bans handed out by the Hampshire FA for a string of alleged wrongdoing during the final game of the Hampshire Premier League Division 1 season.
Players Leon Elliott, Jack Jewel and Daniel Martin face fines of £150 each and a ban of 182 days from football, which would rule them out of playing again until next February.
The allegations against them state “improper conduct against a match official (including physical contact and threatening and/or abusive language/behaviour)”. In addition, player Jody Hoare faces a £150 fine and a whopping 15-match ban.
His charges state “offensive, insulting or abusive language towards the match official; threatening behaviour towards the match official”.
Infinity are also facing a £100 fine for misconduct and causing the match to be abandoned. The Hill Lane-based outfit protested to referee Orbay Keskin against a decision not to award them a goal against Broughton at Taunton’s College in late April.
What resulted was, according to Hoare: “a melee of shouting” before Keskin abandoned the game with 25 minutes left.
Infinity feel they are being unfairly treated by the county FA and face folding if their appeals fail, as they won’t be able to foot the bill.
The Hampshire League will welcome them back if they are able to continue, according to the club.
The Hampshire FA released a statement to the Daily Echo saying: “We received a report from the match referee after he had abandoned the match between Infinity FC and Broughton FC on 26 April 2014. “As a result of this report, a number of misconduct charges were raised. Three Infinity players were charged with assault on a referee, one player was charged with making comments of a racist nature, and two further club members were charged with improper conduct. “The club were also charged with causing the match to be abandoned. The individual charges were considered by an independent panel and the fines and suspensions imposed were communicated to the club and the individuals concerned. “The club and individuals concerned do have a right of appeal against the decisions to The Football Association.”
Hampshire FA said Keskin wouldn’t be allowed to comment on the incident.
Infinity claim their punishments are too severe, insisting their protests did not involve any forceful physical contact.
Manager and secretary Michael Bulman, 33, said: “The whole situation has been blown right out of proportion. “The punishment we’ve received is ridiculous. We have made the decision to take it to appeal at the FA headquarters at Wembley.
“The assault charges are outrageous. All the players did were put their hands on the referee’s shoulder to get his attention in protest of what had happened. “We fully accept and plead guilty to the foul and abusive language; it’s the assault charges that we are fighting against.”
Hoare, a full-time parent from Hamble, said: “It was just a melee. “There was just a lot of shouting. “I was over by the touchline with my wife and kids.
“I thought after the goal decision they’d just get on with playing but they didn’t, so I ran back over and that’s when I realised he (Keskin) had abandoned the game.
“I’m appealing my ban. I’m 100 per cent confident that I’ll get it overturned.
“I said the F-word twice, that doesn’t warrant a 15-match ban. “The rest of them only put their hands on the referee in a non-aggressive way. Their bans are excessive as well.
“We have been harshly treated by Hampshire FA. “It seems every time one of our players get a ban or a fine they get the maximum possible.
“It feels like they’re trying to drive us out.”
Infinity admit they have had previous issues with discipline. “We’re not well liked,” admitted Bulman.“We haven’t been well behaved in the past. But we had turned things around and our discipline had got much better before this match.”
No date has yet been set for Infinity’s appeal hearing.