A FOOTBALL team from Worcester have been hit with a nine-point penalty for fielding an under-age player.

Goalkeeper Leyton Joyce was only 14 when he turned out for Worcester and District League Sunday Division Five side Worcester Rileys but, under Football Association rules, players have to be 16.

Joyce, son of former Worcester City striker Wes, who is also a registered Rileys player, featured in seven league matches and one Bernard Finnegan Cup game for the team before his real age came to light.

However, while admitting he was aware of the FA’s lower age limit, Joyce senior believes the ruling restricts player development and should be changed.

Officials were made aware of falsified registration forms, signed by the player, but the club have been exonerated of blame. However, they still face the points deduction, which has seen them drop from second to fifth in the table, denting their promotion hopes.

The league could have docked Rileys 37 points — comprising an automatic three-point penalty for each of the seven Division Five matches Joyce junior played, as well as the points gained from five wins and one draw.

They could also have been expelled from the cup competition but they were beaten by Drakes Broughton Rangers. Leyton Joyce has not been charged.

A Worcestershire FA spokesman said: “There is a distinct FA regulation as to the lower age level to play open-age football and that is 16.

“It doesn’t prevent youngsters from playing in youth football but they can’t play in open-age football.

“It’s a child protection issue and we would not be doing our duty if we allowed them to play. That’s the reason for the regulation.”

But the goalkeeper’s 32-year-old dad Wes reckons players under 16 should be allowed to play in adult leagues if they are good enough and have the support of their parents.

He said: “The rules should be changed so that if a player has parental consent they should be able to play if they are 14 or 15.

“I have got a son who is brilliant in goal so it’s been an advantage to us. Because he’s 14 we are getting punished for playing a teenager in goal and I just can’t see how you can punish someone for it.”

He added: “It’s no wonder that we haven’t got any local talent because they are not letting anyone progress.

“I played for Worcester City and I thought that’s what my son would end up doing.”