Football: Berkovic looks at `strike' option

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The Independent Online
THE CONTROVERSY surrounding John Hartson's fracas with Eyal Berkovic at West Ham's training ground continued yesterday with sources close to Berkovic suggesting that the Israeli midfielder was considering going on strike over the incident, even though the club said both players would remain at Upton Park.

Peter Storrie, West Ham's chief executive, said he had spoken to Berkovic and his agent yesterday morning. "Both of them told me he [Berkovic] had no intention of asking for a transfer," Storrie said. "Eyal explained to me that his comments about the whole episode, which were taken from his column in an Israeli newspaper, were a week old."

In the column, Berkovic described how he was kicked in the head by Hartson at a training session 12 days ago and claimed the club had made no moves to punish Hartson. Photographs of the incident dominated front pages in Israel yesterday, pushing the Middle East peace summit and a record exchange rate inside. "He could not believe how it had been blown out of proportion and I think he was a bit shocked and embarrassed about it all," Storrie said.

However, Berkovic apparently told friends he may not return to Upton Park after international duty this week. A source close him said last night: "Eyal is not the type to accept an apology and forget. What has been said by West Ham has pushed him over the brink. He doesn't plan to go back."

BSkyB's attempt to take over Manchester United ran into more problems yesterday with the new that the Professional Footballers' Association have written to the Office of Fair Trading to complain about the deal. The PFA's chief executive, Gordon Taylor, has added his weight to the FA and Premier League, who have raised objections to the deal.

Uefa, European football's governing body, last night dismissed Hearts' appeal against their elimination from the European Cup-Winners' Cup last week after they had played the second leg away to Real Mallorca under protest because the goals were not regulation size. Hearts had wanted either to be awarded the first-round tie or to secure a rematch at a neutral venue.

Leicester City yesterday announced an operating profit of pounds 2.1m and may use the offer of further cash for transfers as part of their campaign to persuade Martin O'Neill, who is wanted by Leeds United, to remain as their manager.

n Five former senior employees of Italy's disgraced drug-testing laboratory, which is at the centre of investigations into drug abuse by Serie A players, were charged yesterday with offences relating to the abuse of power and the withholding of information. The lab's former president, Giorgio Santilli, its secretary Emilio Gasbarrone, a director, Rosario Nicoletti, and chemists, Maria Vittoria Barbarulo and Felice Rosati, are the first to face charges since the affair began two months ago.