Batty calls in advisers after Blackburn showdown

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The Independent Online
Football

GUY HODGSON

David Batty yesterday called in his advisers after a meeting with the Blackburn manager, Ray Harford, to discuss what punishment he should receive for his part in the brawl with Graeme Le Saux during the Champions' League match against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.

A statement from the club said that Batty had asked for the weekend to give him the opportunity to consider his position. However, he is available for Rovers' match against Arsenal at Highbury tomorrow and looks certain to be selected.

Harford spoke to both players yesterday and afterwards confirmed that a suspension was not considered appropriate.

"I spoke to the chairman and we agreed how we would handle it," he said. "I have also spoken to both players and whatever action we take it will not affect their prospects of playing against Arsenal. Their future is not in doubt at this club."

The incident happened four minutes into the match when the players collided accidentally. Le Saux erupted in a flurry of punches after allegedly being goaded by Batty and the pair had to be separated.

Harford admitted the clash affected both the team, who lost 3-0, and himself. "I found it difficult to concentrate properly on the game after it happened and it was maybe half-time before I was able to focus. I have felt worse but I don't know when. It was not a nice for anyone connected with the club and not nice for anyone watching."

Batty refused to talk to reporters when he arrived at Blackburn's training ground yesterday, while Le Saux was having an X-ray on his left hand - thought to have been injured in the fracas. The full-back has apologised for the incident, describing himself as "unprofessional".

"The hardest job now is to get back some unity," Harford said. "The team spirit has been terrific here. We won the championship because of it."

Duncan Ferguson was released from Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison in the early hours of yesterday morning after serving 44 days of a three-month sentence. His leaving eclipsed his arrival, the Everton striker departing in a Daimler.

He will be a guest of honour at Everton's home match against Sheffield Wednesday today and on Monday the club will begin the fight to overturn a 12-match suspension imposed by the Scottish Association.

Ferguson, the first professional to be jailed for an on-field assault on a fellow player - in his case, against Raith's John McStay while playing for Rangers in April 1994 - must still serve nine games of his 12-match ban. Everton are being backed, however, by the Professional ers' Association in their plea for a judicial review of the ban.

Ferguson's old club, Rangers, are ready to risk the wrath of the SFA over the role of the referee supervisor. They are refusing to commit themselves to allowing three of their players, including Paul Gascoigne, to attend a disciplinary hearing next Thursday.

Wimbledon are prepared to sell Dean Holdsworth in order to raise cash to buy players. Interested clubs, like Chelsea, should start bidding at pounds 4m.

n Fifa, football's world governing body, has thrown its weight behind opposition to Jean-Marc Bosman's court victory which threatens the transfer system in Europe. "An international organisation simply cannot operate properly unless regulations are universally applied, and any other approach would lead to serious problems, " Fifa said, adding that the independent status of the 18 associations concerned could also be jeopardised.

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