No go for Cummings as FA block cup final request

The Central Coast Mariners’ new striker can’t play in Saturday’s showdown due to what club calls “red tape” as FA are sticking to the rules, writes Tom Smithies

The Central Coast Mariners have been blocked from playing new signing Jason Cummings in Saturday’s FFA Cup Final against Melbourne Victory, despite an 11th-hour plea for “exceptional circumstances” to be invoked due to COVID postponements.

On the back of Cummings scoring on his debut for the Isuzu UTE A-League club, Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp had asked FA to rule his new signing eligible for Saturday night’s showpiece, on the basis that he was signed in a period when Victory were still able to sign players for the FFA Cup.

Under the competition rules, no player signed after the semi-final can then play in the FFA Cup Final. But thanks to COVID delays, Victory’s semi-final was only played on Saturday night – 11 days after the Mariners beat Sydney FC in their final-four fixture. 

Nonetheless FA competition officials ruled that Cummings remains ineligible – though they have allowed the Mariners to include goalkeeper Patrick Beach, as first-choice Mark Birighitti is currently the only fit keeper on the club’s books.

In their submission, it’s believed the Mariners argued that Victory effectively had an advantage in having longer to sign players, and that they should be allowed to register their new signing made in that period.

The club subsequently sought to show that there was a delay to Cummings being registered due to illness at his previous club Dundee in Scotland, with the Mariners waiting an extra 48 hours to receive his International Transfer Certificate.

The move comes just days after the Mariners lost out to hosting the FFA Cup final, and despite Mielekamp arguing that “red tape” should be ignored given the complexities of staging the competition amid COVID disruption and postponements.

The FA’s choice of former Victory captain Carl Valeri to present the trophy at the end of the game has raised eyebrows, while it has also emerged that the governing body has had to seek permission from the AFC to delay naming its third entrant for the Asian Champions League.

From this season the FFA Cup winners will take that spot, but each federation was due to submit its entrants by the end of December – a date then extended by a month due to Covid. Now FA have had to extend that further, and will submit either Victory or the Mariners straight after Saturday’s final.

An FFA spokesperson declined to comment on the Mariners’ application.