We had several reports late last night that Atlanta was out of the 2014 Women’s Premier League Championship and so we began digging into the rumors. To their credit, USA Rugby did acknowledge the ineligible player in their press release covering the WPL matches yesterday, but is that the whole story?
As a team, the Harlequins chose to start a player who failed to register prior to the registration deadline, and after being denied a waiver request, the player was deemed ineligible.
Atlanta, aware that using its ineligible player would eliminate the team from Championship contention, allowed the Harlequin to take the field for kickoff and officially forfeited the match to Glendale.
As a result, Atlanta will face the Berkeley All Blues on Sunday in the 3rd/4th match and Glendale gets their shot at another WPL Championship and will battle the defending champions, the Twin City Amazons.
We are left with some questions though. Did this player participate in other league matches after the WPL registration and transfer deadline in October? If so, Atlanta’s league matches would also be liable to forfeit, questioning their placement in the 3rd/4th place match overall. Or did Atlanta simply choose to play this player only yesterday? If not, unless there was an injury or other circumstances, why would this player suddenly step in front of another?
Now to the eligibility guidelines, there have been several different eligibility concerns over the years and this brings it into the limelight again. In September, USA Rugby made a revision to the Collegiate Eligibiligy Guidelines. Now Collegiate players who attend a different University than their undergrad for a Masters program can play out their fifth year of eligibility. You’ll see below in Jervey’s response that Atlanta played this player with full knowledge, in a brazen stance against the “arbitrary” deadline. Was this the right move? What would this accomplish?
Beyond some of the obvious questions, I think the largest question that remains is, should eligibility rules trump competition? Glendale didn’t have it yesterday, Atlanta did. Glendale gets a second shot at a lost Championship and will play very well and will stand toe to toe with the Amazons, but I think Atlanta would have as well.
Patty Jervey response:
As the Quins will not be playing in the final come Sunday, it seems fitting to fill you all in. We made a choice prior to the game to play a player that USA Rugby deemed ineligible yesterday due to our missing the CIPP deadline by two days and our lack of approved justification for such. We were told going in to today’s match that if we played the player, we would forfeit. I understand rules and, for the most part, choose to abide. But I also understand that rules are are usually created in response to something unfair or unjust or unbecoming. We believed then and will continue to believe that as this player is a committed Harlequin and has not played for any other team in the last three years, there was no intent to violate the spirit of any eligibility rule. Trust me when I say this player bleeds yellow, blue, green and red just like the rest of us. Moreover, we believe that in CIPP’ing the player two days after an arbitrary deadline did not give us an unfair advantage over any team in the league. As I believe the mission of USA Rugby should be to promote rugby, I am disappointed.
But the disappointment pales in comparison to how full my heart is. I have played in a few matches in my career and today’s epic win was right up there with the very best. I could not be more proud of my Harlequin teammates. Today, we were giant killers. Today, we played together. Today, we were 5% better. I have such a hard time letting the game and this team go because it is so amazing to be part of something bigger, feeling and thriving on the energy, not just from the rostered 25, but the coaching staff of Tui Nadave Osborne, Butcher, Gannon, and AJ, the injured doves, the D2 squad, the Life University Collegiate Women, the alumni, the fans at the pitch and online, and Jason Payne for laying the groundwork.