There was a mini uproar when Sunderland were let off with just a fine for what they called a “technical fault.”
Even manager Gus Poyet was surprised – no, stunned – that no Premier League points were docked for playing Ji Dong-Won while ineligible.
Poyet called it “unbelievable” and “incredible” that the 19th-placed club got away unscathed on the table. Despite the club “admitting no wrongdoing,” the Uruguayan gave off a very different vibe.
Recalling his time as manager of Brighton and Hove Albion, Poyet pointed to an incident where opponents Hartlepool were docked three points for fielding an ineligible player.
“I’m not saying we [Sunderland] should have been docked points, but I would understand if we had,” Poyet admitted to English media. “That day they didn’t give me the three points. Now why would you go the other way? Now, in England you should give it to Southampton, but why are you going to change it now?”
In a refreshing bit of honesty, Poyet stayed true to his sentiments felt while at Brighton.
“It’s incredible. The rules should be clear. It should be one rule. For me or against me, [it needs to be] clear. I am not a hypocrite. I still believe the same as I did then, I’m not going to change.”
Finally, when asked if he would be upset were he on the other side of the incident, he answered, “If they are like me, yes I would.”
His comments are very contradictory to the club’s statement released just a few hours before, stating:
“The club has never accepted any wrongdoing,” Sunderland released in a statement, “but did acknowledge that a technical fault occurred and as such, were fined by the Premier League accordingly in December. The matter is now closed.”
Poyet is glad the information was eventually released, but with the fine coming down in December for what the league declared was a “low-level administrative error” he wondered why the team did not make the information public sooner.
“I don’t know why the club didn’t say anything,” the 46-year-old said. “It wasn’t my decision. It had nothing to do with me. I’m pleased there was a statement today because why should I explain something that was nothing to do with me.”
Ji played in four Premier League matches in 2013 along with one Capital One Cup game while ineligible under international transfer regulations. They picked up one PL point during that time. Their opponents in the Capital One Cup match, MK Dons, released a statement to say they would not be pursuing any legal action.
However, West Bromwich Albion told the Guardian they would seek “further clarification” from the Premier League before deciding whether they would seek legal action. It is thought that if Sunderland avoid relegation by the point earned over the time of Ji’s ineligibility, other relegated teams could make moves.