Huddersfield chairman Phil Hodgkinson tried to get the referee to ban the team wearing a controversial ‘spoof’ one-off shirt in a pre-season friendly, which ended up costing the club a £50,000 fine from the Football Association.
The Terriers were widely criticised for a sash-style shirt which bore the logo of a bookmaker when they unveiled it as their new home shirt against Rochdale on July 17.
The logo clearly appeared to exceed the FA’s guidelines for kit and advertising regulations of 250 square centimetres, and Huddersfield were subsequently handed a misconduct charge by the governing body.
Town and the bookmaker later admitted to the stunt before the Championship club brought out a new, sponsor-free kit for the current season.
Huddersfield auctioned off the 15 shirts from the Rochdale game for charity, which raised nearly £28,000 for local causes.
On Thursday, the FA confirmed the club, relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season, had been officially sanctioned for the stunt and warned as to its future conduct by an independent regulatory commission, led by Christopher Quinlan QC.
The published written reasons behind the decision included a signed witness statement from match referee Martin Coy, who revealed Hodgkinson had asked him to ban the kit, which “could then potentially be good publicity and part of the advertising campaign”.
Coy’s statement added: “I was uncomfortable with this and felt it was not my place to ban the kit outright, but I informed them that I would recommend they followed the rules and advice from The FA. I also stated that I did not want to be part of any publicity.
“At this point the chairman said that the team would not wear the kit and I would not be part of any advertising.”
The FA contacted Huddersfield’s operations manager, Ann Hough, over the matter.
Her reply revealed the shirt was a one-off ‘spoof’ and had been kept from the Huddersfield board until the day of the match, with the club’s case “that apparently no thought was given to the FA’s kit regulations as it was assumed or presumed they did not apply to pre-season friendlies”.
Hudderfield were informed on the afternoon of the match by the FA that, if worn, it may take disciplinary action against the club.
It had been decided a training kit would be worn instead, but when the bookmaker was informed Hodgkinson, who purchased the club during May 2019, confirmed: “We were threatened with legal action and the sponsor said that it would be deemed to be a material breach of the sponsorship agreement if the team did not wear the oversized logo.”
The Terriers chairman added: “This is an unfortunate event, but we accept responsibility and offer a full apology.”
The FA was also told the club’s official kit for the season would not feature the sponsor’s name, but had not received any account from the bookmakers.
The written reasons added: “The blatant nature of the advertisement garnered much media attention and, to use the colloquial phrase, ‘the damage was already done’.
“Whilst betting companies are currently permitted to advertise on kits, the FA submits that the decision to enlarge the advertisement in such an overt manner was irresponsible, particularly in the current climate regarding gambling.”
In reply to the FA’s submissions, Hough said: “In hindsight, the club may have got this decision wrong, however, at the time, and under time pressures, we felt that the ramifications (not just financial) of litigation were potentially very damaging to the club and this affected our judgement.”
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