SAINTS have branded the actions of the Northern Ireland FA a "disgrace" after they banned Chris Baird from playing against Wolves.

The Irish FA invoked a FIFA rule which prevents players from appearing for their clubs within a set time of an international if they fail to comply with a call-up.

Baird missed his country's two recent European Championship qualifiers with a groin strain but would have been fit for the crunch six-pointer at Molineux - but Saints could have faced having points deducted if they had fielded him.

George Burley rang Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez on Monday to explain the situation and to offer to send him over but was told to hold on to the player.

Burley even went as far as to praise Sanchez for his sensible approach when talking to the Echo last week.

Director Lee Hoos then offered to put Baird on a plane so he could be examined by the Irish medical staff but received no reply.

Nor has he received a reply to his phone calls to try and resolve this situation which has the backing of the English FA and the Premier League.

Hoos said: "The Northern Ireland FA have cited article 5 NXI of the FIFA regulations which states that any player who fails to comply with a call-up for whatever reason may not play for his club for the duration of the call-up plus one day, in this case five days.

"He was injured and unable to play so they feel they are entitled to invoke the rule which is crazy.

"The English FA and the Premier League and members of G14 all agree it is an absurd interpretation, but FIFA have said it is legitimate and if we play Chris then they may seek sanctions against us.

"That could include deducting points and having dealt with the zany world of FIFA disciplinary committees which are full of people like the Northern Ireland FA, we felt it was too great a risk.

"We are absolutely amazed the Northern Ireland FA could interpret the rule in this way.

"I even offered to put Chris on a plane on Tuesday but they ignored my fax.

"We have been working hard over the last few days to try and resolve the situation with the help of the English FA but unfortunately the chief executive of the Irish FA Howard Wells has not returned any of my calls.

"It is absolutely disgraceful but we cannot afford to take the risk of playing the player.

"From now on our position with the NIFA is that any player called up will report regardless of their condition and they will then have a duty of care for his well-being and his treatment.

"We will not hesitate to take legal action for negligence if this duty of care is not met."