Football: Blues await decision on assault charges

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The Independent Online
Officials of an Italian Serie B club, Ancona, met last night to decide whether to press assault charges against unspecified Birmingham City players following violent clashes after an Anglo-Italian Cup tie on Wednesday.

The "Battle of Ancona" left the local club's coach, Massimo Cacciatori, nursing a fractured cheekbone and an eye wound. Cacciatori, who was taken to hospital but did not require surgery, alleged that his injuries were inflicted by Liam Daish, the Birmingham defender, during a fracas in the dressing-room area after an ill-tempered match.

Reports from Italy suggested that police may seek the extradition of as many as four members of the Birmingham party. Under Italian law, criminal proceedings are automatic if a person is certified unfit to work for 20 days or more. Conviction for assault can carry a prison sentence of up to three years, but if Cacciatori's recovery period is less, he can sue his alleged assailant(s) through the civil courts.

A spokesman for Ancona maintained that Cacciatori had been "punched and butted" during an "outrageous" attack. He added: "What's happened has happened. We've referred the case to the Italian League, and we will make up our minds calmly over the next few days."

The Football League confirmed it is likely to set up an inquiry into events during and after Birmingham's 2-1 win. The League expects a report today from the referee, John Lloyd of Wrexham, who also needed hospital treatment on two fingers injured as he sought to end fighting in the tunnel after the match.

The only British newspaper journalist present, Colin Tattum of Birmingham's Evening Mail, reported yesterday that he saw Cacciatori run on to the pitch to strike one Birmingham player, Paul Tait, and seize another, Ricky Otto, round the throat.

No arrests were made, and Daish denied striking Cacciatori. "If that's what they want to say, let them. Nothing happened, " Daish said. Television pictures showed the coach being wheeled away on a stretcher, evidently with face wounds.

Barry Fry, the Birmingham manager, initially branded his opposite number "a disgrace" for his alleged incursions on to the pitch, but by the time Birmingham's plane landed in Britain, Fry was tight-lipped. The club secretary, Alan Jones, issued a terse "no comment" yesterday.

The Anglo-Italian Cup has suffered poor crowds and disciplinary problems since being resurrected in 1992. Only 800 spectators, including 92 Birmingham fans, were at Wednesday's match.

Non-League Notebook, page 28