STEVE BRUCE has claimed his former club Sunderland could be in "serious trouble" despite their Premier League fine for fielding Ji Dong-won when he was ineligible.

Sunderland were fined a six-figure sum after they made the Premier League aware that they did not have international clearance for the South Korean player.

The club are confident they will not face further punishment, and a Premier League source has described the the rule breach as the 'lowest level of administrative error' because Ji was registered with Sunderland, even though they did not have his international transfer certificate.

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Nevertheless, Hull boss Bruce, who signed Ji when he was Sunderland manager in the summer of 2011, said: "That's pretty bizarre stuff that it's only surfaced now and he's played in four games.

"They should be in serious trouble, I would have thought."

Asked if he would expect a club fielding an ineligible player to be handed a points deduction, Bruce replied: "It's the first I have heard of it and it will be interesting, I would have thought so though."

Sunderland officials consider the matter closed, and the Premier League have no intention to reopen their investigation into the matter.

However, it has emerged that Sunderland boss Gustavo Poyet previously criticised a Football League decision not to overturn a result when Hartlepool United fielding an ineligible player against his Brighton side in 2010.

Pools played Gary Liddle even though he should have been suspended after picking up his tenth booking of the season, and were docked three points and issued with a £3,500 fine.

At the time, Poyet was one of those pushing for a points deduction, and he even claimed that Brighton's 2-0 defeat should have been reversed into a 3-0 win.

One of the games that Ji played in while he was ineligible ended in a 1-1 draw at Southampton that saw Sunderland pick up a point.

Back in 2010, and in an interview with The Northern Echo, Poyet said: "Had it happened in Spain, Italy or France or any other league in the world, we would have automatically awarded the game either 2-0 or 3-0 – with no need for a decision from the league.

"Here in England, we have to wait for a decision. Then when that decision comes it is one which leaves the game in this country open to ridicule. In my opinion this is totally wrong.

"The points mean nothing to us, we are safe, we can not be promoted, we don’t need the points.

"It is a matter of principle and for the sake of integrity of the Premiership, Football League or even the Football Conference or lower.

"We must bring our rules in line with others, as one day it may have severe consequences on a club when another fails to play to the rules.

"For example, were Wigan to beat Chelsea on Sunday and Manchester United win the Premiership, and then after the game it emerged that Wigan had fielded an ineligible player in the game, would Chelsea accept that? No way.

"Or what if Stockport played an ineligible player, they scored the equaliser in the last minute of that game and relegated Tranmere?

"Would that be fair on Tranmere? No way. I feel the rulebook is wrong and urgently needs updating to bring the English game in line with the rest of the world.’’