Aston Villa boss Carla Ward admitted a “horrible mistake” to field ineligible player Noelle Maritz which could knock them out of the League Cup.
Defender Maritz was brought off the bench at half-time in Villa’s 7-0 rout over Sunderland on Wednesday with the score at 3-0 when she stepped onto the pitch.
Maritz joined Villa from Arsenal in January but had previously made three appearances for the Gunners earlier in the competition.
The Football Association has referred the matter to an independent tribunal for “an alleged breach of Cup Rule 8.19”.
Villa’s comfortable victory meant they finished at the top of Group A and sealed their place in the quarter-finals, ahead of Sunderland in second, but their future in the competition now depends on the decision of the tribunal.
Ward admits conversations have taken place to make sure this does not happen again.
She told a press conference: “As a club we understand there has been a horrible mistake, quite honestly, and there has been some internal conversations and investigations on how this has happened.
Aston Villa reached the quarter-finals stage in last season’s competition and were aiming to go further this season but Ward admits they will accept any punishment that now may come their way.
“Of course there’s a worry because we targeted this to try and get to the semi-final, if not the final,” she added.
“We performed excellently, won 7-0 but we’re not talking about that. Some individual brilliance, collective brilliance and a real positive performance…that would make it five wins in seven, that’s what we should be talking about.”
Villa return to Women’s Super League action on Sunday, with a match away to Manchester United.
The tribunal’s decision could have could have implications for United’s qualification for the League Cup quarter-finals, with boss Marc Skinner hoping ‘the right decision is made’.
“I will just reiterate what I said the other night in that I hope the right decision is made and it’s not to the detriment of Manchester United.
“We did everything we can to qualify from the most difficult group and I feel hopefully the right decision is made and doesn’t scold Manchester United.”
“I hope it’s taken to that serious extent. It’s not to throw blame at anyone – I’m not here to do that – I just hope it’s common sense that prevails and that we’re not the team that has to suffer from this situation.”