AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson has revealed that illness was behind the administrative error that led to a three-point deduction.

The Football Disciplinary Commission also slapped the Dons with a £5,000 fine suspended until the end of next season, as well as a bill to pay the cost of the hearing, after they fielded an ineligible player – Jake Nicholson – in the 4-3 win over Cheltenham on March 22.

Samuelson said: “Jake was on what is called a multiplicity contract for a month while Neal [Ardley] had a look at the player.

“The contract ran out on March 19, just before the Cheltenham game, and when it was due to be renewed, the office was closed due to illness to a key staff member, and it slipped through.”

He added: “The contract is relatively unusual to us, and I think when these problems arise it is generally because you’re dealing with the unusual.

“But, although we are disappointed with the punishment, we had a full and fair hearing, we’ll take it, and come back stronger next season.”

It is not the first time Dons have been hit with a points deduction – in 2007 the club were docked 18 points and expelled from the Surrey Senior Cup and FA Trophy for one season for fielding Jermaine Darlington.

The midfielder had played three games despite not being registered properly, but, on appeal, the punishment was reduced to three points and a £400 fine after the FA heard it was due to an administrative error.

Earlier this season, Sunderland avoided a points deduction when it emerged that striker Ji Dong-Won was ineligible when he played against Fulham, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Manchester United.

The Black Cats were fined by the Premier League and the Football League after the South Korean international also appeared in the Capital One Cup.

Despite the apparent disparity, Samuelson said: “It is not for me to comment on other cases, I just know we need to deal with ours, keep our heads down and move on.”

The club will not be appealing the decision.