Julian Dicks, the West Ham full-back, was yesterday suspended for three matches after being found guilty of "violent conduct" by the Football Association who had clearly opted for trial by video.
The charge arose from an incident which left Chelsea's John Spencer needing eight stiches in a head wound. After three hours of deliberation in a London hotel, an FA commission discounted expert advice and a submission by the full-back's victim.
Dicks was accused of stamping on Spencer's head out of the referee's view. The incident was captured on Sky Television, and the FA decided to act, despite protestations from Spencer that he believed the injury was not deliberate.
Spencer submitted a written statement for the hearing, which explained his view. The Chelsea manager, Glenn Hoddle, did not allow him to attend the hearing.
But after viewing video recordings "from two angles on very many occasions", the commission decided to follow the lead of the match referee, Robbie Hart. He was asked to view the incident and then said that had he seen the stamping on the field, Dicks would definitely have been sent off. Controversially, the commission did not accept evidence offered by Peter Harrison, the general secretary of the Physical Education Association, who told the commission that the collision was inevitable and an "unfortunate accident".
Harrison had been called to the hearing by West Ham, who had been confident before the hearing that Dicks' action would be vindicated, despite his poor disciplinary record. Dicks has been booked 54 times and sent off nine times during his career. After the verdict, theclub's managing director, Peter Storrie, said they would consider launching an appeal over the next two weeks.
"We are obviously all very disappointed," he said. "The short sentence imposed of three games shows that there was an element of doubt in the proceedings. It seems to me that it is the way the game is going. Trial by video is part of the business now and we have to accept that it works both ways."
Dicks himself was unsure about whether he should appeal. "If I do and lose they can increase the number of games, but obviously I have to discuss it with Harry Redknapp [the West Ham manager] and Peter Storrie.
"The point is, I would accept more games if they said I was not guilty. It is the principle that concerns me. I was 99 per cent sure I would have won the case." Dicks said he attached no blame to Spencer for not personally attending the hearing.
The verdict would not, he said, force him to change his full-blooded style of play. "I am not going to let it affect me. Harry Redknapp believes me, Peter Storrie believes me, the supporters believe me and my wife and family believe me. I can't ask for any more."
Redknapp would not say whether he thought Dicks' "hard man" image had prompted the FA's decision to penalise the player, but he was shocked at the result. "I am convinced that he was innocent," he said. He announced that he would not be fining the player, who will retain his first-team place.
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