Waitakere to fight ban that could ruin Menapi’s season
SOCCER: Referee’s ruling changed to ‘violent conduct’ after video watch
Waitakere United striker Commins Menapi has copped a six-match ban from the national body that will rule him out of almost a third of the next New Zealand Football Championship season.
The popular Solomon Islander and United’s golden boot and player of the year was sent off by top referee Peter O’Leary for ‘‘serious foul play’’ following a tackle on Auckland City defender Riki Van Steeden in the NZFC grand final at North Harbour Stadium on April 16.
That ruling carried an automatic one-match ban but O’Leary, after a video review of the incident, changed his report to read ‘‘violent conduct’’ which carries a minimum two-match suspension.
In a letter to the club this week, New Zealand Football competitions manager Glyn Taylor said ‘‘an obvious error in the referee’s disciplinary decision had occurred as in the opinion of the disciplinary committee, Menapi was not challenging for the ball and had used excessive force or brutality’’ and further, ‘‘that a charge of violent conduct was justified and a charge of serious foul play was an obvious error’’.
In handing down the six-match ban, Taylor said that had it not been for the player’s previous disciplinary record they would have considered an eight-match ban.
‘‘You can’t condone tackles of that nature,’’ said Taylor. ‘‘We are entitled to rectify obvious errors.’’
But it appears in this case that Menapi, who just four minutes into the match was caught by a flaying elbow from City defender Ben Sigmund — who was yellow-carded by O’Leary — and was left with a bloody head gash which later required stitches, has fallen victim to video watch.
In an earlier game between the two sides at Kiwitea St, Van Steeden was shown a straight red card for his late challenge on Waitakere’s Daniel Kopricvic but with no television replay to call on the matter ended there with a two-match suspension.
John Cameron, the referees inspector for the North Harbour match, said he initially signed off O’Leary’s report agreeing with the ‘‘serious foul play’’ charge.
Only later, after the incident had been reviewed by NZF referees boss Ken Wallace, did he agree the charge should be upgraded.
‘‘As I understand it, Auckland City appealed and it was taken from there,’’ said Cameron.
‘‘If nobody had said boo, nothing would have happened.’’
Menapi and Waitakere were advised on April 19 there was to be a disciplinary hearing but in a subsequent letter, on June 7, Kernaghan advised United’s legal counsel James Turner that ‘‘the disciplinary committee should not accept the amended incident report from the referee’’ and, further, ‘‘therefore I can advise that the disciplinary hearing scheduled for tomorrow [June 8] will now not take place.’’
‘‘However,’’ Kernaghan continued, ‘‘as it is entitled to do, the disciplinary committee will meet to review the incident. The attendance of Waitakere United or Commins Menapi is not required.’’
Turner sought to clarify the situation going as far in a letter of June 8 to say ‘‘no sanctions will be accepted’’ but NZF did not reply and went ahead with the disciplinary hearing and 11 days later handed down their sentence.
United executive chairman Rex Dawkins said his club ‘‘will definitely defend the charges vigorously’’ and go through the appeal process even if it means taking the matter to Fifa or the Council for Arbitration in Sport.
‘‘We are bitterly disappointed in New Zealand Football in acting on a report from an outside source,’’ said Dawkins.
SIDELINED: Waitakere United’s Commins Menapi, front, faces a six-match ban.