Football: Counting the cost of minor offences

That was the weekend that was
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The Independent Online
For once, the absence of Paul Williams from Coventry's back four on Saturday had nothing to do with the worst disciplinary record in the Premier League.

After nine yellow cards and two reds this season, the 26-year-old defender has already been banned from eight matches. This time, however, it was an operation to cure a hernia that kept him off the teamsheet.

With the flak still flying over his latest dismissal against Arsenal, which landed Coventry's manager, Gordon Strachan, in hot water over his comments about referee Steven Lodge, Williams was relieved to lie low.

But while Strachan has apologised for what he said, Coventry are still deeply annoyed by the fate of their player and are leading a campaign to change the current disciplinary system, which is due to be reviewed by football officials today.

The new rules, introduced only six months ago, penalise players with suspension after five, eight and 11 cautions. Previously, bans were based on a totting-up process and were triggered at 21, 33 and 45 points. But the points system, which made allowance for the seriousness of any offence, no longer exists and the system makes no distinction between minor misdemeanours and fouls when a card is shown.

"The system is a nonsense and Paul is a victim of the system," the Coventry secretary, Graham Hover, said. "He has been harshly treated. He is clumsy sometimes but very fair. Under the old system, there is no way he would have served so many bans."

Representatives from the Premier and Nationwide Leagues, the Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers' Association are meeting at Lancaster Gate to examine the rules.

Others who would welcome change include Chelsea, whose card count is well down on last season, yet who have already had seven players suspended at different times.

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