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It appears Southern United may be dealt what coach Paul O’Reilly has called a "sickening blow".
The club’s national football premiership team is facing losing the points from its season opening 4-0 win over Tasman United.
It is believed Tasman protested about the result, saying Southern fielded ineligible players, Cameron McKenzie and Cody Brook. Both players had entered the game late as substitute players, McKenzie’s injection triggering the controversy.
If that protest is to be upheld, it is rumoured the sanction could be the match result being recorded as a 3-0 win to Tasman.
That would have a major impact on the table, dropping Southern from second on nine points to a tie for sixth on six.
Following the side’s 5-2 win over Waitakere United on Saturday, O’Reilly said he was not 100% sure what was happening.
He was hearing rumours and the protest seemed to be common knowledge throughout the league, as players and coaches at other clubs were asking about it.
He dubbed the potential for a loss of points a "sickening blow" over what was a "trivial and nonsensical issue".
O’Reilly said McKenzie and Brook were fully registered, full clearance had been obtained via football’s Comet system and NZF player agreements were completed.
He said both players were announced by the club on social media, were in the squad photo and played preseason matches.
An additional excel spreadsheet had not been sent to NZF in time, something that was not a requirement in NZF’s other three national leagues.
The same week the club’s administrator had a family bereavement.
He said it was "madness" to imply the club was trying to be deceitful by playing the duo.
NZF has three options in terms of its sanction; a warning, fines and points deductions.
O’Reilly said the team was disappointed by the situation and felt the points deduction would be a sanction which outweighed the offence.
He added there was now a genuine fear among the coaches and players that was what NZF was considering.
He pointed to the major impact it would have on the league table.
"Personally I think its ridiculous if they apply that punishment.
"It could have lasting implications for the integrity and credibility of the processes in place around the league."
He added that while there had been some tough and challenging times, the squad had continued to apply itself well.
It is believed NZF will release the outcome of the protest this week.