FFNC backflip on Stars ban

By ADAM HICKS

FOOTBALL Far North Coast has done a backflip on their zero tolerance policy, significantly reducing the suspensions of players who abused referee Luke Mackney during the Premier Division grand final last month.

FFNC said they would enforce their policy after The Northern Star broke the story that Mackney had been abused, sprayed with beer and had a can thrown at him following Italo Stars 1-0 loss to Richmond Rovers.

However, it seems FFNC has failed to uphold their stance during the appeals process.

All who appealed had their suspensions cut by more than half by the FFNC disciplinary panel last week.

One player's 10-year ban was reduced to four years and is subject to a further appeal.

The player suspended for one year will now be out for 15 matches and the Italo Stars club will lose three home matches and start the season on minus nine points after the decision to ban them from hosting a Premier Division match for 2008 was overturned.

The second-grade player who threw the can did not appeal against his life ban. Nor did the spectator who sprayed beer contest his five-year-ban.

Shortly after the incident was highlighted by The Northern Star, FFNC issued a statement warning that abuse of match officials would attract the toughest penalties.

"We expect a zero tolerance policy to be in place for the future where players or spectators found guilty of abusive or threatening behaviour towards match officials will the maximum penalties available to us we will not accept this type of behaviour on any level," the statement said.

"We have advised ... of the sanctions we believe are appropriate for the conduct demonstrated at the grand final."

FFNC refused to comment on the issue following the disciplinary hearings and were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Italo Stars have been forbidden by FFNC from talking to the media about the events discussed in the hearing or risk further penalties for bringing the game into disrepute.

A Stars spokesman said the club had faced financial ruin if the home game ban was upheld.

"It equated to the licensed club losing approximately $40,000 in turnover ... not including what the canteen takes," he said.

The player with the 15-match ban could be playing again half-way through the season depending on how Stars perform in a knockout pre-season competition.



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