We are deeply disappointed to announce that, following a hearing at Wembley this morning, the FA Youth Cup Sub-Committee have upheld a charge issued to Reading Football Club which recognised a breach of FA Youth Cup Competition Rule 15 (j).
Therefore, pending the outcome of a potential appeal process, our Under-18s have been removed from the competition at the quarter-final stage after we fielded an ‘under-age’ player inadvertently in our 4-1 win at Colchester United earlier this month.
David Dodds’ side earned their third win in the competition courtesy of goals from homegrown England internationals Danny Loader and Jack Nolan at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, however as part of the starting eleven we included 15-year-old Imari Samuels at left-back.
According to the competition’s regulations, all players who compete in the FA Youth Cup must have turned 15 before midnight on 31st August of the current season, and Samuels was only 14 years of age at this cut off point.
It is important to note that a rule infringement involving the fielding of an under-age player in a youth competition is extremely uncommon. And there is no rule to prevent Samuels - or another player of similar age at any club - from playing every week in the U18 Premier League for example.
In fact, as our Academy proudly continues to offer the invaluable experience of competitive football to talented young players who we feel can benefit from game time ahead of their respective age groups, we legitimately included four Under-15s in our Under-18s squad for a league match against Fulham less than a fortnight ago.
And we understand that the regulation disallowing players from lower age groups to compete in the FA Youth Cup was initially introduced to ensure the competition would be played on a level playing field in earlier rounds which pitted league clubs against non-league clubs – yet this infringement of the rules was made in a Fifth Round tie between two EFL clubs.
However, as part of the FA regulations stipulated in the FA Youth Cup rulebook, we accept that fielding an under-age player is a breach of the rules for this specific competition and openly admit that, under Rule 15 (j), Samuels was not eligible to play in the Fifth Round win.
Upon realising our unintentional mistake the following morning, the club were proactive in making immediate contact with the FA to make them aware of the administrative error and unreservedly apologise.
We were formally charged by the FA last week and the club attended a hearing at Wembley Stadium earlier today, hoping that our young players would not be denied the opportunity to continue their cup run and we would be permitted to replay the tie – a decision which was taken by the FA when the same oversight of fielding an under-age player was made by Southend United in the same competition in 2015-16.
Our philosophy within our Category One Academy is to ‘extend and consolidate’ – stretching young talented footballers with challenges designed to extend beyond their comfort zones where appropriate, before then consolidating what has been learned and working with them on a one-to-one basis to help them benefit from those experiences in training.
However, despite presenting our case at length to an FA Youth Cup Sub-Committee earlier today, it was ordered that the Royals should be removed from this season’s FA Youth Cup and Colchester United re-instated.
The FA’s full reasoning behind today’s decision will be issued to the club before 4pm tomorrow and Reading Football Club will, at that stage, consider an appeal which must be lodged before 4pm on Monday 19th February and submitted in full before 4pm on Tuesday 20th February.