Waitakere to fight ban that could ruin Me­napi’s sea­son

SOC­CER: Ref­eree’s rul­ing changed to ‘vi­o­lent con­duct’ af­ter video watch

The New Zealand Herald - - Sport - by Terry Maddaford

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.

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