Liga MX finally did something right. And incredibly enough, it affected the team that has most been favored in these kinds of decisions throughout the years. Ironically, many are complaining the punishment handed out was too severe and the league should’ve gone easier on América, with it going no further than a simple fine. But, what exacty happened and why did league officials come to this decision?
Before the start of the game, Santiago Solari’s coaching staff handed their Technical Secretary, Mario Peniche, the list of active players for the match in the lineup sheet (as they do before every match), which could’ve featured a total of 21 players, but in América’s case, only featured 20, as they had left striker Federico Viñas off said list accidentally, apparently. Peniche didn’t realize this and went ahead and turned in the document to the officiating crew (FYI he’s the one that’s supposed to identify mistakes like these). Because of the fact he failed to notice this small, yet significant detail, he didn’t report the mishap to Solari on time. And so, Viñas warmed up with the rest of the team prior to the start of the match and sat on the bench as a regular sub during most of the first half until someone finally walked over and gave him the instruction to leave the sideline. He then headed up to the club box for the rest of the match.
Now, looking at this from a distance, it indeed appears a harmless mistake, which it actually was. He didn’t influence in 2-0 América victory in any way, as he didn’t see a single second on the pitch. With that being said, taken straight out of the LIGA MX rulebook, here’s their official rule on this very subject, followed by the rule which punishes said infringement:
An improper lineup is considered as:
48.1 A player’s participation, whether as a starter or substitute, as well as a member of the coaching staff who is not registered in the lineup sheet.
Clubs that incur in an ineligible lineup will become creditors of the following sanctions, depending on the applying case:
50.1 If the offender wins the match, the disputed three points will be awarded to the rival club. In terms of goals scored, all will be invalidated, ending in a 3-0 final score in favor of the club who acted legally.
Was Viñas in the lineup sheet? No. Was Viñas a substitute during most of the first half? Yes. According to Article 50 of the Liga MX rulebook, did América break Article 48.1 and are they deserving of a loss, coupled with a 3-0 Atlas win? Yes and yes. Did Liga MX respect their own rules? Yes. In other words, BUY. The ruling on this case was absolutely correct and on point. Not often can you say that about Liga MX, but in this particular case, they responded as a disciplined and fair league.
With all of this being said, in the grand scheme of things, do I believe the rule should be changed or have an exception for a case like this? Absolutely. I don’t think América deserved to lose the match other than the fact the rules explicitly state what the Mexico City-based team did. After that, there’s no way around it. But I do believe the rules should be modified and adjusted to perhaps not losing the match, but incurring in an economic fine or something of the sort.
If this case teaches us a lesson at all, it’s that clubs will have to think twice about cheating or trying to take advantage of a situation. In no way am I accusing América of said actions; quite the contrary. It’s very clear to me this was an honest mistake. And that should be the end of it. However, the three points were fairly taken from Solari’s side. Liga MX league officials come out of this looking strong and like they will not tolerate rules being broken, despite not living up to this standard in the past. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a similar trend for years to come.