Quietly and without comment from the club concerned, a message appeared on the Football Associations website earlier today which confirmed a most curious piece of news. George Rolls, the acting chairman of Kettering Town FC – and the phrase “acting chairman” is one that we use with caution – has been charged by the Football Association with regard to their rules regarding Misconduct and Betting. The FAs statement on the subject is as terse as such messages come, but the devil may be in the detail of the statement released on the FAs website.

The FA has charged Mr George Rolls in relation to alleged breaches of its rules governing Misconduct and Betting.

Mr Rolls has been charged with the following offences:

  • Three breaches of FA Rule E3 – Misconduct relating to his conduct during the investigation of the alleged breaches of the Betting rules
  • 974 breaches of FA Rule E8(a) – Betting – during the 2007/8 season
  • 1,707 breaches of FA Rule E8(a) – Betting – during the 2008/9 season
  • 392 breaches of FA Rule E8(a) – Betting – during the 2009/10 season

Mr Rolls has denied the charges which will be dealt with by an independent Regulatory Commission on 4 July.

It is, of course, hardly our place to comment upon whether these charges are something that George Rolls is actually guilty of, although is acceptable to emit a small gasp ay the sheer volume – over 3,000 – of charges listed. It is the job of the FA to determine his guilt or innocence. What we should probably do is take a look at what this means, exactly, though. First of all, here is the FA Handbooks definition of Rule E8(a):

A Match Official, referee coach or referee assessor operating at level 1, 2 or 3 shall not bet, either directly or indirectly, or instruct, permit, cause or enable any person to bet, on the result, progress or conduct of any football Match or Competition or any other matter concerning or related to football sanctioned by the Association including, for example and without limitation, the transfer of players, employment of managers, team selection or disciplinary matters.

The time periods listed by the Football Association cover both Rolls’ periods at Cambridge United and at Weymouth, so it may not only be the supporters of Kettering Town that are concerned this evening, although punishments against Cambridge and Weymouth for any alleged misdemeanours carried out by a chairman who is no longer involved with their club could certainly be interpreted as locking the stable door after the horse has, in this case, literally well and truly bolted, and would be by any stretch of the imagination unfair.

This is far from the first time that the Blue Square Bet Premier has aroused the suspicions of the authorities when it comes to the FAs zero tolerance policy with regard to those involved with football clubs. One match during the 2008/09 season which attracted a considerable amount of attention that was a match between Weymouth and Rushden & Diamonds in the Blue Square Premier – how time flies – which ended in a 9-0 win for Rushden. Betting was suspended by one bookmaker on the morning of the game amid rumours that Weymouth would struggle to field a team due to irregularities over the teams medical insurance.

After the match, this match became part of a wider investigation by the Football Association which centred on betting patterns surrounding six matches and anonymous threats made against club officials. During a match between Histon and Lewes in the division in September 2008, a Histon official was called on the telephone and reportedly told that there would be dire consequences if they did not win this match. The match ended in a draw and early the next morning a car belonging to the club president Peter Betson was set on fire in nearby Cambridge. Elsewhere in the same season, four players were banned for periods from six months to a year for betting on the result of a League Two match between Accrington Stanley and Bury.

There is nothing to suggest either that any of the clubs named above were guilty of anything relating to the investigation at that or any other time. Furthermore, there is no suggestion that George Rolls has been so much as remotely involved in anything like this. We mention it at this stage, however, to demonstrate that the FA – and, indeed, the police – were more than aware of potential irregularities at this time and that this may well inform the hard line that they take over matters like this.

However, the allegations are serious and if found guilty Rolls could well find himself being banned from any involvement in the game for a lengthy period of time. What effect this might have upon the future well-being of Kettering Town, where Rolls acted as an advisor to the stricken club whilst stating that he had no intention of leaving his previous club Weymouth before leaving Weymouth for Kettering a couple of months later – actions which mean that he us already only barely considered trustworthy by the Kettering support, while the supporters of both Weymouth and Cambridge United seem to hold him in fairly open contempt – is anybody’s guess. This story, however, can only add to the sense if uncertainty that continues to linger over Kettering Towns future, regardless of the CVA which Rolls seems to believe will guarantee the clubs future.

At every step of the way in the remarkable and depressing tale of the recent history of this particular football club, the best interests if the supporters have been treated as an irrelevance and the supporters trust, who have publicly backed Rolls, must be wondering what on earth they have let themselves in for. For the time being, however, only one thing in this story is anything like certain – whether guilty of the charges brought against him by the FA or not, we haven’t yet seen the final act in the drama that the last few months in the life of this one hundred and forty year old club has become.

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