The Football Association (FA) are investigating Aston Villa Women for fielding an ineligible player during their 7-0 victory against Sunderland in the Conti Cup, which could see the result being overturned.
The FA are looking into the incident, where Villa manager Carla Ward brought on Noelle Maritz as a second-half substitute in Wednesday night’s match. Maritz, who joined Villa in January, played for her previous club Arsenal three times in the Conti Cup this season — which is contrary to competition rules — including during the dramatic penalty shootout victory against north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in December.
Villa are awaiting further information from the FA and believe it was an administrative mistake that caused the error.
Conti Cup rule 8.14, which covers the fielding of ineligible players, states that punishment for guilty parties can include an independent commission overturning the match result. In 2014, Reading were removed from the same competition for fielding an ineligible player following an FA investigation.
The rule states: “Any club found to have played an ineligible player in a cup match or cup matches shall be in breach of these rules and the matter shall be referred to an Independent Tribunal for determination pursuant to Rule 3.7.1(d).
“Subject to Rule 8.14.3, the Independent Tribunal may: (a) order that the cup match or cup matches be awarded to the opposition club; or (c) make any such other order that the Independent Tribunal may decide.
“The Independent Tribunal may determine not to order that the cup match be awarded to the opposition club only in circumstances where the ineligibility is due to the failure to obtain an International Transfer Certificate or where the ineligibility is related to the player’s status.”
The incident casts uncertainty over an otherwise impressive evening from Ward’s side. Villa breezed to a comfortable win on the night with Alisha Lehmann opening the scoring in the 28th minute, followed by goals from Jordan Nobbs and Rachel Corsie later in the first half. They remained equally dominant after the break, as Ebony Salmon, Simone Magill and Adriana Leon scored to take the lead to increase their lead to six before a Natasha Fenton own goal rubber-stamped the victory.
Villa are next in action in the Women’s Super League, where they face Manchester United on Sunday.
(Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)