JIM Cooper feels the Football Association made a ‘disgraceful decision’ in expelling Grays Athletic from the FA Cup.

Despite progressing to the second qualifying round of the competition and being scheduled to face Kingstonian at the weekend, Grays were kicked out after putting ineligible player Frankie Hession-Harris on as a substitute in the 5-2 preliminary round win over Heybridge Swifts.

And Cooper feels changes must be made in order for other non-league clubs not to suffer the same fate.

The Grays chief said: “Surely it would be very easy to insert an alert flag on the players FA record.

“When he registers with a club on his return from playing abroad, this flag would alert the club, league, the FA or all three that international clearance is needed before he can play.

“This doesn’t help us in any way but it is not the first time this has happened to a non-league club.

“Most secretaries at this level are volunteers who give up their time to do this and as we have seen yet again from the FA’s sanctions they do not care nor understand how grassroots football is run and what the consequences of taking almost £10,500 from our club in prize money can have on the future of our community run club.

“Everyone at the club is gutted but let me assure the fans that my players are totally committed to being successful this season and this disgraceful decision by the FA to expel us when a fine should have been imposed will not knock them off their stride.”

Hession-Harris, who entered the fray against Heybridge with Grays already 5-1 in front, has also featured for Witham Town and East Thurrock United since returning from the United States of America.

Cooper added: “I feel it was a totally disproportionate sanction from the Football Association after playing an ineligible player in our win over Heybridge Swifts.

“The player concerned should take no blame for this injustice, nor should in my opinion our club, East Thurrock or Witham, who Frankie had registered with prior to signing forms with us.

“For me, the system of clearing players when they come back into England is not fit for purpose and, as such, cost us our place in the competition.

“Frankie had only played college football in the USA during the course of his education in the country. As a result, international clearance would not have been necessary on his return to English football.

“But a club outside of the college system who are within the USA Soccer Federation requested clearance for Frankie to play for them, thus making a record at the English FA denoting clearance out of the country which ultimately means he would need clearance on his return.

“Frankie never played for that club so he believed – now clarified through the FA as wrong – that as he didn’t play for them, he would not need international clearance.”