I should be reflecting today on King’s Lynn Town’s biggest crowd for years, our debut on terrestrial TV and whilst we did not quite do enough on the pitch, we did, I feel make a good impression both for the county and the club to a worldwide audience.

I found out at the game (I must have missed the email from the FA with the sheer volume of correspondence around the cup game) that the club had been fined £5,000 plus an additional £1,200 in costs by the FA, for misogynistic abuse aimed at assistant referee Lauren Impey at our home against Alfreton, which was played in September, by a few of our 'fans'. We have been charged with breaking rule E21.4.

The club itself knew nothing about the abuse handed out to Ms Impey until half-time – none of the abuse was audible from our side of the stadium and indeed the referee in his report admitted that he heard nothing. Lauren Impey said she tried to alert the referee, but her buzzer was broken so everyone was in the dark. When we found out, we took immediate action, several stadium announcements were made, stewarding was increased to the area where Lauren Impey was officiating, and we tried our best to find the culprits. It needs to be pointed out that the abuse was not by large sections of the crowd but a few fans yelling hurtful statements which is why the referee and the club did not hear what was said.

That said, I was ashamed of what was aimed at Ms Impey - the club apologised to her on the night and there is simply no excuse for what she had to endure. We are proud of our family values, and we will not tolerate any abuse being levelled at anyone. 

My issue is not with Ms Impey reporting the problem to the FA, but the severity of the fine given out by the panel formed to listen to the charge – it is simply excessive and not reasonable for a club of our size.

I have subsequently sat down with fans that stand in the North Stand, which was where the vile abuse originated from, and told them in no uncertain terms that if anyone is caught making similar comments, banning orders will follow. We do what we can as a club, but can a club be responsible for what comes out of other people’s mouths (other than the action they take once it happens and putting safeguards in place)? We do what we can – but if someone committed a crime whilst working for a PLC would that PLC be charged with the crime, pay the punishment whilst the real perpetrators walk free? It does seem a little unfair.

The panel that gave out the fine consisted of David Phillips KC, Alison Royston and Matt Williams. David Phillips is a legal member of the FA Premier League panel and is described by The Legal 500 as 'top rated'. Alison was football secretary at West Ham United and Head of Football Administration at Leeds United whilst Matt is Head of Football Operations and Club Secretary at Burnle. One must ask, whilst these individuals have all operated at the top end of the food chain in football, do they have any idea of the finances at the nether regions of the footballing pyramid?

The panel is given guidelines for each transgression which vary on a league by league basis; for our league the minimum fine is £375 and the maximum fine is £5,000 for breaching this regulation. If the same offence is committed in the Premier League the minimum fine rises to £20,000 with the maximum being £300,000. I looked back over the last three years and could not find one instance where a Premier League club has been charged by the FA for the same offence, although many of us have certainly heard chanting at these grounds which falls into this category over this time period. 

The panel agreed there were several mitigating factors in our favour – we admitted the charge at the first opportunity, we have never been charged with a similar offence and we had no advance warning of what took place. The panel also accepted the submissions made by myself and the club and that we were a responsible club. The panel contradicts itself in my opinion, as it gave us the maximum possible fine without giving us any credit for the factors that they agreed should be taken into mitigation.

The panel understood the club had no surplus cash to pay a fine but still felt it appropriate to fine us a total of £6,200. Many fans do not believe the footballing authorities inhabit the same planet as the rest of us and it is decisions like this that cement that belief.

Alison Royston and Co may like to know that our total gate receipts after paying the referees in cash for this game (one of the few invoices in life where the recipient prefers to be paid in cash) was just £3,502 after deducting VAT. So, in essence we have been charged 167pc of our gate receipts for the game – put another way, if Manchester United were found guilty of the same charge they would incur a £6.7m fine if the panel did things proportionally (and remember that their TV money dwarfs their gate receipt income).

Celtic FC were fined £13,000 for displaying a banner that used a very derogatory and offensive term against the Crown or 0.8pc of one of their gate receipts.

In September 2022 Beechwood Social Club FC were fined £100 for homophobic chanting, Bury Town FC were fined £ 250 in the same month for racist chanting and for sectarian abuse of James McClean, Barnsley FC received a £20,000 fine which is around 20pc of one of their gates and this was not their first offence.

In 2021 Manchester United fans protesting against the Glazers caused the postponement of the United V Liverpool game with no punishment being handed out to the club as of yet, despite the fact they were charged. The whole incident seems to have been swept under the carpet.

The fine we received could put many grassroots clubs' future into doubt. We hear a lot of words from the great and the good about how important the grassroots game is but fines like this are totally disproportionate to our income and makes you wonder if there is any substance behind the words. The panel that awarded the fine should be made to spend a day with clubs like ours, to understand how hand to mouth our existence really is.  It all seems totally detached from reality.

We have appealed the fine, where we run the risk of costs being increased by a further £3,500 but we hope that common sense will finally prevail. We live in hope.