London: Sunderland have been fined by the Premier League after South Korea’s Ji Dong-won was selected for four matches even though he was an ineligible player, according to British media reports on Thursday.
Ji, 22, played for Sunderland against Fulham, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Manchester United this season before the Black Cats realised they had made a mistake, the BBC and Daily Mail both reported.
The reports says the Premier League were informed of the administrative error in December and Sunderland paid what is believed to be a substantial fine earlier this year.
Sunderland were punished because they failed to gain international clearance for the South Korea international after he returned to the club from a loan spell at German club Augsburg last season.
The Premier League team did not realise they needed to seek international clearance for a second time when he returned to England. Ji should not have been involved in any matches before the club received written confirmation from the German Football Association, but then manager Paolo Di Canio was unaware of the problem and picked the forward.
The Mail reported club secretary Liz Coley left abruptly once the error came to light.
Sunderland were also fined by the Football League because Ji started in a 4-2 League Cup victory over Milton Keynes Dons in August, with the club going on to reach the final of the competition before losing to Manchester City.
Ji didn’t score in any of his appearances, but he helped Sunderland earn a point after coming on as a half-time substitute in a 1-1 draw against Southampton on August 24 and that could prove crucial as Gus Poyet’s team battle to avoid relegation.
Sunderland are currently second bottom of the table and four points from safety with a game in hand.
If they do stay up it is possible their relegation rivals with protest the decision not to deduct Sunderland any points.
The Mail reports that FA statutes say Sunderland should have been deducted points or made to replay the game against Southampton for failing to gain the appropriate clearance.
The FA rules state: “Any club found to have played an ineligible player in a match shall have any points gained from that match deducted from its record and have levied upon it a fine.
“The company may vary this decision in respect of the points gained only in circumstances where the ineligibility is due to the failure to obtain an International Transfer Certificate or where the ineligibility is related to the player’s status only.
“The board may also order that such match be replayed on such terms as are decided by the board, which may also levy penalty points against the club in default.”
Neither the club nor the Premier League was available for comment, but it was reported that Sunderland are confident they acted correctly once the error was discovered so should not face further sanctions.
Ji joined Sunderland from South Korean side Chunnam Dragons in June 2011, but is now back on loan with Augsburg and has agreed to join Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer in July.