APFSCIL DISCIPLINE & ARBITRATION
From the outset, it was the Association's intent that it should be seen as a responsible organisation and followed that its member clubs should themselves be prepared to adopt corrective action against individuals who were considered to have behaved in an unacceptable manner. An early opportunity to test the resolve of members on this question arose when a letter appeared in the Sunday Telegraph criticising the behaviour of Leeds fans on a Saturday evening train to London. Happily, by the time the matter was discussed at an Association General Meeting, the Leeds Supporters' Club had already disciplined their members concerned and so attracted commendation rather than criticism from their peers.
A trickier situation arose a few months later when a member club failed to pay its outstanding dues for an Association social event and so revealed an inadequacy in APFSCIL's initially agreed Constitution. The club could be disciplined for failing to maintain standards of behaviour by its members but not for failing to pay bills! An amendment to add the words "or in any other way not uphold the aims of the Association" was hastily, and with the unanimous support of member clubs, added to the rules. During the short period this took, the matter was resolved satisfactorily.
As one would have wished in such a homogenous group of clubs with common interests and attitudes, resolution of internal differences has not been a serious problem and there have been few occasions when the Association has needed recourse to its ability to consider the continuing entitlement of a club to membership. Only one club has indeed been disenfranchised, this for failing, in the view of other member clubs, to take satisfactory internal action against members who had been prosecuted for their behaviour whilst travelling as a member of that club. This action was taken, however, only after considerable discussion over a number of General Meetings during which the club concerned was given every opportunity to take reassure fellow clubs of its best intentions.
It is testimony therefore to the original drafters of the rules and the goodwill of members that the initial Constitution, with the amendment previously mentioned and a few interim administrative adjustments, stood the test of time until 1994 when a comprehensive re-write was undertaken.
With any organisation representing a wide variety of interests, however, it is inevitable that differences of view will occur from time to time. Since APFSCIL's raison d'être is friendly co-operation between its members, it has generally been possible to resolve matters amicably through conciliation by the Administrative Committee rather than a heavy-handed approach by open discussion at General Meetings. Some matters, however, seemingly so trivial, have occasionally generated high emotion, as well as frustration at the time taken to resolve them.
The earliest challenge to the Association's mutuality arose over one of the early Riverboat socials. Dissatisfaction with the catering led to the organiser obtaining, after rejecting an initial offer of a credit note, a refund. To whom did this money belong? The Association? All those who bought tickets? All those who attended? Of those who attended, only those dissatisfied with the catering? Resolution of this dilemma took 4 General Meetings and 4 Administrative Committee meetings and resulted in the production of a claim form upon those who wished could recover 70 pence per head. A fifth General Meeting demanded, for legal tidiness, nil returns from the 10 clubs who did not wish to pursue claims.
Happily, from such an inauspicious start, there have been few other matters of contention and most have been associated with, as previously mentioned, non-payment for tickets for events or with issues arising from the APFSCIL competitions, regularly confirming that there are "two sides to every story". The first of these minor tiffs, over a Darts match which the Committee ruled should be replayed at a neutral venue under the supervision of a Committee member, resulted in the drafting of an arbitration procedure which the August 1979 General Meeting decided should "be filed for contingencies, with the hope it would never be needed". If only!
Generally, however, minor disputes have been resolved either amicably by the clubs themselves or within the sub-committees which have run the various sporting competitions. The arbitration procedure (originally pigeon-holed but incorporated into the 1994 full revision of the Constitution), however, allowed appeals over such decisions to be referred to the Administrative Committee. Very few have taken that course but one common feature which is of warning to others has been that some players have not realised that the team they were representing was effectively part of a supporters' club and that appropriate conduct towards opponents, in the spirit of APFSCIL, was expected of them.