The war of words between leading city clubs Peterborough Sports and Netherton United is rumbling on.
Sports irritated their local rivals by fielding a virtual first team in a Peterborough Premier Division fixture between Netherton and Peterborough Sports Development (a team set up to give the club’s youth players competitive action against adults) at the Grange last week (August 8). The strengthened Sports team won the game 3-1.
The decision to play many players who regularly play three divisions above the Peterborough League caused much comment on social media with some claiming Sports had disrespected their opponents and the Peterborough League by using a Premier Division match as a ‘warm-up’ for their forthcoming Evo Stik Southern League campaign.
Sports sought to clarify their decision by issuing a statement on their own website which said their need for match practice trumped other considerations. At the time Sports thought they faced 14 days without a game ahead of their first league match this Saturday (August 18).
Netherton have now hit back with a letter to the Peterborough Telegraph which suggests the result of the game should be made null and void claiming the Peterborough League already has rules in place to stop clubs ‘interfering with the integrity of its competition’.
The Peterborough League have yet to respond to the Peterborough Telegraph’s request for a comment.
That letter can be read here:
‘Netherton United would like to comment on the views expressed by Alan Swann and a host of others on social media concerning the correctness of Peterborough Sports FC (PSL) fielding mainly its semi-professional team in the Peterborough Premier League fixture with Netherton last week.
PSL were entitled to use the rules for its own (perceived) advantage; bad form maybe, poor etiquette definitely, certainly not cricket, but the detailed explanation in the statement by PSL should be respected for its candour and honesty. Further PSL should in general be applauded for its success in bringing a higher grade of football within the city boundary and for providing the opportunity for talented local players to play at a higher level for more reward.
The higher divisions of the Peterborough and District League provide the start of the interface between the truly amateur teams and semi-professional football. The rules of the league have been crafted over 116 years to respect the needs of all. Rule 18(M) was created to prevent the semi-professional teams in higher leagues distorting the outcome of the leagues own competition, whilst at the same time allowing them some scope to play a few semi-professionals in their feeder teams. The integrity of the league table is the very reason for the leagues existence.
What happened last week was the clash of two different cultures. That of a business driven, private sector, win at all costs semi-professional football team, with that of an amateur league governed by volunteers. PSL state “We are no longer classed as a local football club and still have a desire to climb as high in the football ladder as possible and so have a clear need to prioritise whatever decisions are required to help with that ambition.” In other words they will do it again if the business requires it. This must not happen.
No doubt there will be a little bit of glee amongst our local football fraternity that it is Netherton that have suffered the detriment – football is like that and long may it remain to be so. However, the victims are not Netherton but all the other 85 football teams who have been disrespected by PSL’s decision to flout the spirit of the rules and interfere with the integrity of the competition.
There are calls for rule changes to close the loophole exposed by PSL. We think these are not needed. The League has a duty to protect the integrity of its own competition and we suggest it already holds the power to arrange future fixtures in a way to prevent this ever happening again.
Time will tell if the prioritisation of its own short term interests above its long term reputation is a wise business decision. Of course PSL, having achieved its stated objective of a testing pre-season friendly, could always ask the League to declare the game null and void. We think that would be appropriate. Whatever happens we hope this single incident of rank bad manners will not sour the competitive but friendly relationship between our two clubs for too long.
Netherton United FC