UK ARBITRATION has refused to overturn Thurrock Football Club’s verdict of guilty for fielding a suspended player.

The ruling, which is final and binding, means the club will begin the season in the Ryman Division One North after they were docked three points from their Ryman Premier League total last year. That deduction saw the club drop into the relegation places.

The ruling brings to an end an eight month saga which first reared its head in January.

The arbitration hearing took place yesterday and a verdict was delivered today.

Thurrock FC press officer Tony Flood told the Gazette: "We've lost. It's unbelievable. We're devastated."

The club's assistant first team manager, Tony Gay, tweeted to say: "Gutted. Gotta take it on the chin and get down to work. This can only make us stronger."

Thurrock first played striker Joel Barnett in their 2-0 win over Lewes in August last year. But at that time, was on a West Ryding suspension list after Wilton, a Sunday league side he played for, folded with debts outstanding.

Those debts were spread among all the playing staff, but Barnett, nor any of the clubs he played for subsequently knew that.

Barnett played four games for Fleet last season, before moving to Tilbury, where he scored seven goals in 13 appearances between September and January.

Harlow Town flagged Barnett’s suspension up in January and refused to play him after he was set to sign having quit Tilbury.

That lead to a subsequent investigation by the FA who found the Thurrock and Tilbury – who had 18 points deducted in the same case - guilty of playing a sine die player. Thurrock were docked three points by the Ryman League.

In July, they had an appeal kicked out and elected to ask UK Arbitration to hear the case.

The decision means the Ryman League season will go ahead as planned, with Thurrock in Ryman Division One North, Carshalton Athletic in the Ryman Premier and Sittingbourne in the Division One South.