The Supporters Club wrote to the FA about the Blackpool postponement in December.  Finally, the FA have replied.  The letter and reply are set out below.

11 December 2023

Dear Polly Handford

I am writing on behalf of the supporters of Forest Green Rovers FC to ask for transparency and clarity in the FA’s announcements and decisions in respect of contraventions of the eligibility rules. Both in respect of the recent judgements in respect of FGR and its participation in the FA Cup Second Round and for the supporters of other football clubs in the future.

You will be aware of the surprise both amongst FGR supporters, but also Blackpool FC supporters when the Blackpool v FGR Second Round FA Cup tie scheduled for 3 pm Saturday 2nd December was cancelled by the FA on the afternoon of Friday 1st December 2023. Many supporters were already on their way to Blackpool and had booked accommodation.

Whilst I recognise if an issue arises, the FA needs to ensure that the adverse implications of a potential eligibility problem are minimised, such a late decision merits some explanation that places it in context.  This was not forthcoming.

The FA published the following statement on December 6th.

A Professional Game Board Sub-Committee has ordered the Emirates FA Cup First Round Proper tie between Forest Green Rovers and Scarborough Athletic to be replayed on Tuesday 12 December at 19:45. 

The FA charged Forest Green Rovers for fielding an ineligible player in the Emirates FA Cup First Round Proper tie against Scarborough Athletic, which constitutes a breach of FA Cup Rule 109, and Forest Green Rovers subsequently admitted this charge.

Forest Green Rovers will now play away to Scarborough Athletic in a one-off match on Tuesday 12 December, and the winner will travel away to Blackpool for a Second-Round Proper match on Tuesday 19 December.

This statement provides no explanation of what Rule 109 requires. I have sought to access Rule 109 on the FA website. The only possible source appears to be the FA Handbook 2022-23 where I assume the FA Cup Rules are. There is no heading for FA Cup Rules.

There are fundamental issues here about the relationship between the FA, clubs, and supporters.

Clubs and supporters need transparency about the FA’s decision- making and clarity in the public explanations.

There are three specific areas where that transparency should have been provided:

  1. Clarity at the point of notification. For example, which match it applied to?
  2. Given the investigation took 5 days to provide an outcome, perhaps managing supporters’ expectations for the timeline ahead would be better and avoid plenty of speculation.
  3. Finally, there should be an explanation which is easily understood by the average football fan – like other industries where clear and simple communication is seen as key.

The FA did not deliver against any of those points and doing so would improve supporters’ experience.

It would therefore be helpful for the FA to provide the FGR FC Supporters Club with Rule 109 and a reasoned and detailed explanation of how it was transgressed.

Also, what steps will be taken to ensure this problem is not repeated?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely

Ian Crawley


FGR Supporters Club on behalf of FGR Supporters.

The Football Association (FA)

14 March 2024
Dear Mr. Crawley,
FA Cup 2023/24 – Forest Green Rovers / Scarborough Athletic / Blackpool FC

I write further to our recent discussions regarding this matter.
Please accept my sincere apologies again for the issues regarding receipt of your original letter sent via post.
Second Round Postponement
Firstly, please be assured that The FA recognises and understands the challenges faced by affected clubs, their
staff and supporters when incidents of this nature arise.
As you recognise in your letter, the Competition Rules in this area are principally in place to protect and
preserve the integrity of the Competition. When these incidents occur, our aim is to investigate and determine
them swiftly, but in a manner which seeks to ensure a fair process.
Relevant Competition Rules

The FA Cup Competition Rules for this season are enclosed, and can also be downloaded here
Competition Rule 109 relates to the eligibility of players at a club on a temporary basis (e.g. players on loan).
As you will note, it lists cumulative conditions which must be fulfilled for any such player to be eligible to play
in the Competition.
The possible consequences for a club found to have fielded an ineligible player are set out in Competition Rule
101, and these include removal from the Competition. However, this is subject to the subsequent Competition
Rule which provides for circumstances in which removal from the Competition shall not be ordered, but other
penalties may be imposed (including an order that the match should be replayed).
Alleged Competition Rule breaches are determined on a case-by-case basis and according to the specific facts
and circumstances of each case. Whilst the clubs involved in the relevant fixture will be made aware of the
outcome, the Competition Rules do not provide for publication of precise details, which in many cases will be
private and sensitive for those concerned.
Finally, whilst it is ultimately the responsibility of each participating club to ensure it fields eligible players, The
FA is nevertheless working on developments to the player registration system used by participating clubs
which seek to minimise the possibility of those clubs fielding ineligible players in the future.
Kind regards,
Polly Handford
Director of Legal & Governance