Canberra United questions severity of A-League Women's points deduction

Canberra United are confident their appeal to a devastating three-point deduction will be successful as they fight to keep their A-League Women season alive.

And United coach Njegosh Popovich couldn't hide his frustration with the decision, saying other Australian clubs hadn't been docked competition points for more serious matters.

Canberra were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in a 2-1 win against Sydney FC on Feb. 11, the Australian Professional Leagues concluding they used an unauthorised additional substitution.

ALW teams are permitted to make up to five substitutions in three different windows, but United used a fourth substitution window in the 93rd minute.

It is expected Canberra's defence will centre around them following the advice of the fourth official, who they will argue told them the fourth substitution was permitted.

"We don't want to throw anybody under the bus ... I guess it's fair to say the only thing we're guilty of is following the direction of referees," Popovich told reporters on Wednesday morning. "You have three windows of opportunities to make substitution, we ended up using a fourth window, the bit of confusion was around what is the concussion protocol, what is an injury replacement?

"We're working through it and fingers crossed."

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Popovich questioned the severity of the sanction given the circumstances, arguing other clubs had been punished less for more.

Melbourne Victory received a suspended 10-point deduction for last December's pitch invasion against Melbourne City, but they won't lose those points unless there is another incident of serious supporter misconduct before the end of the 2025-26 A-League Men's season.

"I could comment on a lot of things [regarding] what's happened in recent times in Australian football," Popovich said. "There never seems to have been anyone drop points in, in my opinion, more severe matters.

"Hopefully in a couple of weeks we'll be successful ... it's definitely in everyone's best interest to move on."

The deduction has significant ramifications for the A-League Women's top-four picture.

The Sky Blues went top of the ALW league table when their 2-1 loss was replaced with a 3-0 win, while Canberra remains fifth and now three points adrift of fourth-ranked Melbourne Victory.

A verdict on Canberra's appeal via Football Australia's grievance procedures is expected by the end of next week.