Semi-pro leagues will always have people only vaguely following the rules and with players not being paid and going in and out of a team as frequently as most PDL teams do, it can create a giant headache. In the case of the Kitsap Pumas, they broke one of the more cut and dry rules in the PDL being that you can not have more than eight players on your active roster that are over the age of 23. The aim of the rule is to keep the league for players that are older than academy, typically in college, and can play then without being paid. It is a bridge league for amateurs to get a more "pro-level" experience. The rule itself is simple, the process though is not.
Kitsap registered their players to start the season and had more than eight players over the age of 23 submitted. This isn't a problem, it is fairly typical for PDL clubs to do this but have players marked as inactive. The Pumas were unable to get two players over 23, deactivated before the roster set-in for their first match, the active roster to start the season. Kitsap attempted to rectify the situation, listing only eight of the ten on the matchday roster for the May 7th match against the Victoria Highlanders. That put them in compliance for the game but not with the overall active roster, leading to their penalty.
The first match of the season Kitsap played to a 3-0 victory against Victoria on the field but on paper it is now a 3-0 loss. After forfeiting, they had three additional points deducted (they've currently got -3), and saw a fine. The league is taking roster compliance seriously as you would expect.
I'll let Kitsap's statement on the matter speak for it:
"The club has been attempting to register players for the 2016 season since January, but it has struggled with the fact that the PDL only has one person tasked with actively changing players from inactive to active..."
"It seems that, with 67 teams competing in the PDL, having one person responsible for the entire league's registration process is inadequate...the Pumas were only issued their official player cards less than 24 hours prior to kickoff against Victoria, and the club was only asked to submit its master roster the night before the match after business hours."
They further dug in with a lash out against the league's manner of releasing the penalty.
"The club is also dismayed that the league has decided to announce this ruling to its members on the day of another Kitsap league match. The fact that the public was made aware of it via another club's president on social media rather than a league statement reflects poorly on the professionalism of the PDL."
At its core the set of roster rules in player here are fairly simple.
- You can only have a maximum of eight players over the age of 23 on the active roster.
- The active roster has 26 players on it.
- A game day roster consists of only 18 of the 26 on the active roster.
- You can register more players than 26 but only 26 can be active.
- The league does have windows to activate players but overall a player can be changed at any time, though with short notice it may not be in play for the next match.
Does Kitsap Have a Point?
In short, yes. But a fairly pedantic one. The club is right in that the PDL has only one person responsible for activating and registering every player in the league. It can be daunting with upwards of 40 players being registered per team during a given season and before the season starts, you'll likely have 20-30 players per roster need to be registered. In many cases, activating and deactivating players as you go along. It is a lot to process and with a lot of different documents circulating, like ITCs, visas, legal docs, and more that can bog up the process. It may not be Kitsap's fault that the process came to halt, it may be some team they did not even know existed that is new playing Key West (Florida has seven teams, none in Key West). The longer teams wait, the more likely it is that they could have a problem.
I don't know if Kitsap waited too long. I don't know if they were missing paperwork till the last moment or anything. But what I do know is that they put themselves in a risky position. Knowing that the process is slow and archaic and that they would have over eight overage players that should proceed with caution. If it seemed like there was a problem where it wouldn't get corrected, call off the registration or register the player as inactive and just hold them until after the match. This is all easier said than done, especially if you might be unable to fill an 18 without an influx of players, but with a potential forfeit of the match and fine, should bite the bullet and just put registration on hold?
Resolving This Right
Kitsap made zero friends in the league office with their statement. The PDL will not question cracking down on them in the future after today. Whether you think it was the league, Kitsap, or a bit of both at fault, it is easy to see everything about the situation could've been handled better.
Was it a harsh penalty for a team that tried to mitigate the overage signings? Maybe. Was it a fair punishment? Yes. Should it been done differently? Yes. The league should've contacted the club before releasing the statement, considered that Kitsap attempted to rectify it before the match, while Kitsap should probably have reacted with a less emotionally charged statement.
On the league side, they need to have more than one person registering players at the beginning of the season when 67 teams all are registering 20-30 players over a short time period. The league already uses a registration system online that sends alerts to the staffer to make that change, it usually can be accommodated quickly but if they can automate that system further to make it more efficient and take people out of the equation. If permanently having more than one individual registering players is not financially feasible, a big reason they don't, then changes to the process to structure how teams submit information and stricter, earlier deadlines for initial player lists can help mitigate teams running afoul days before first kick.
PDL Roster Rules are complex, not MLS ridiculous but complex. They have age restrictions, pay restrictions (NCAA related), player limits, complex academy and loan relationships with parent clubs. Kitsap though broke a basic rule due to a backlog in the league's player registration office. They were punished for it. Will it change the process? Probably not. Can they tweak the process? Probably. Is there anything Kitsap can do? Definitely, register eary and use more caution with timing of potentially non-complaint additions since there is no guarantee the league will be able to process in time. It is an unfortunate situation for teams and the PDL but one working together can hopefully fix.