Former Paulton Rovers manager, Darren Perrin has reignited a debate in non-league football about players, banned at the Southern League level, but still able to play in the Nation League System level of the pyramid occupied by the Western and Hellenic Leagues.

Mr Perrin, now Chairman of Southern League, Melksham Town, was quoted in the Non League Paper as saying: “players get a three match ban but in the circumstances they don’t actually miss any football, they benefit from still playing, staying fit and getting paid, they are not actually getting any suspension”.

The loophole allows non-contracted players at Steps 1 to 4, to play at Step 5 and below, if they are dual registered. This matter was the subject of an article written for The Journal by Western League Podcast presenter, Ian Nockolds, back in February 2019, which highlighted that an FA document, intended to provide clarification on the key regulation amendments for the 2017/18 season, states that: “All suspensions imposed by a County FA will not affect a participant at Step Four and above, unless dispensation has been given by The FA for the suspension to cover all levels of the game. Likewise, a suspension at Step Four and above will remain at Step Four and above unless dispensation provided to cover all levels of the game.”

At the time of writing the original article, Ian Nockolds highlighted that “The FA’s own clarification document states that “this change will ensure Players and Clubs are not affected by suspensions from another body which operates under a different set of Disciplinary Regulations””. However, the Non League Paper article quotes an FA spokesperson as stating that “we are in regular dialogue with all leagues including Steps 5 and 6, about the ability of players to continue playing at Steps 1-4 and we will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders through regional meetings.” For those, like Mr Perrin, seeking a resolution to this disciplinary loophole, the FA’s stakeholder engagement appears to be moving into its sixth year, without resolution.