Capello takes the blame to cut ban for Rooney


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The Independent Online

A plea by Fabio Capello was instrumental in reducing the three-match ban that would have seen Wayne Rooney miss all of England's group games in the European Championship.

Uefa's appeals body reduced the sentence for his dismissal against Montenegro to two games which allows Rooney to start the third fixture against Ukraine in Donetsk. Capello's testimony was said to be crucial in that decision. The panel was also impressed by Rooney's decision to remain in Switzerland to make a personal appearance at the hearing, which is said to be rare for a player facing a disciplinary charge, and by the fact that in more than 60 Uefa-sanctioned games, he had only been sent off once before – at Villarreal, playing for Manchester United in the Champions League in 2005.

The England manager admitted that Rooney was "paying for my mistake", arguing that he had been wrong to select him for their final Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro in October. The match came shortly after Rooney's father, Wayne Snr, and his uncle, Richie, had been arrested after a police investigation into betting irregularities at a Scottish Premier League game between Hearts and Motherwell.

Rooney was with the England squad in Podgorica when the arrests were made and, publicly, Capello said the striker was "relaxed and calm" before the 2-2 draw that saw him dismissed for a witless tackle on Miodrag Dzudovic. The Football Association's team, led by Adam Lewis, one of the country's leading sports lawyers, did not argue that the red card shown by referee, Wolfgang Stark, was wrong. Instead, Capello addressed the three-man commission arguing that Rooney should never have played because he was in no fit mental state to start.

Capello claimed it was clear from the kick-off that Rooney should not have been risked and that he had thought about bringing him off at half-time, but changed his mind.

Dzudovic supported Rooney in his appeal and yesterday said that "football justice has been done."

The verdict, delivered after a hearing lasting 80 minutes, was another triumph for Lewis, who represented Sheffield United in the successful attempt to extract compensation from West Ham over the Carlos Tevez affair in 2007 and led the only successful appeal on an Olympic doping ban after the 2008 Beijing Games, when clearing two Belarusian hammer throwers.