FA charge for angry Di Canio

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The Independent Online
PAOLO DI CANIO was yesterday charged with misconduct by the Football Association for pushing the referee Paul Alcock - with the Sports Minister, Tony Banks, calling for disciplinary officials to "chuck the book at him".

As expected, the FA announced the charge after being given Alcock's report into the incident, in which Di Canio shoved the official to the ground after being shown the red card during Sheffield Wednesday's Premiership match against Arsenal on Saturday.

Di Canio has 14 days to respond and request a personal hearing but, depending on the speed of his response, the FA could bring forward a disciplinary hearing.

Whatever Di Canio's response is, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, expects him to sever his links with Wednesday.

Banks said: "This was an incident too far. All of us involved in football, whether as supporters or players, have shouted at the referee as passions run high. But you cannot assault the referee. There has to be a limit - the referee stands between us and chaos, and this was totally unacceptable.

"This is a matter for the FA, and I think they should chuck the book at him," Banks added. "This is so serious that an example has to be made of the player."

Taylor said: "I think there is a problem with him at the club and I think we might see a parting of the ways. He had a particularly bad week, probably a problem with his manager, doubts about whether he would play, and I suppose it capped a dreadful week for him."

The FA's statement read: "The player has 14 days to respond and request a personal hearing. Dependent on the player's response, the FA will seek to put the case before a disciplinary commission at the earliest opportunity. In doing so, we will also welcome the actions of Sheffield Wednesday in suspending the player pending that hearing."

Di Canio, who has flown home to Italy with his club's permission, accused Alcock of over-reacting. He said: "I gave him a shove, but it was hardly done with much force. He took three or four sideways steps before falling over in rather a strange way - like someone diving to win a penalty.

"In fact, it was so odd he would probably have been given a yellow card if he had been a player. To me, it looked like someone who was acting.

The referees' spokesman, David Elleray, said: "It is extraordinary that Di Canio is making these claims, because I cannot imagine any referee doing anything like that.

"It is quite clear that the one thing Paul was trying not to do was fall down because he wanted to preserve his dignity. He has no reason to go down because it is a very undignified thing to happen."

Elleray has urged the FA to take the strongest possible sanctions against the player, if only for the sake of the thousands of referees who officiate on park pitches every weekend. "I think people regret the way that standards of behaviour have fallen, and one accepts the occasional verbal outbursts - but striking a referee crosses the line, and we do not want it to become part of a trend," he said. "I have not heard one person offer one word of defence for Di Canio's action. Everyone agrees that what has happened is wrong and we await the FA's verdict with interest. I'm sure they will take the appropriate action."

The Arsenal defender Martin Keown is to appeal against the red card he received in the same incident - and he has received support from Taylor.

"I feel quite sorry for Keown, who was looking to prevent Di Canio from approaching Patrick Vieira," the PFA chief executive said. "As a result of acting as a peacemaker, he's also been sent off."

Keown said: "Despite more than a little provocation I managed to control my temper and I was genuinely shocked to be shown a red card. I sincerely hope that when the match officials have had time to reflect on the incident they will take a different perspective and exonerate me from blame."

David Pleat on the Di Canio the wanderer; Where referees are used to assaults, page 28

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