"Action was taken and Hartson was fined two weeks wages, the maximum penalty we can impose under FA rules," Peter Storrie, West Ham's chief executive said of the incident, which happened 11 days ago in training and was filmed by Sky TV. "Berkovic then asked for the fine not to happen."
The news came on the day that photographs of the incident were published in the Mirror. Berkovic is pictured lying on the ground after a tackle from behind by Hartson, who then attempts to pick up his team-mate. As Berkovic is pictured turning, apparently to slap the striker's knee, Hartson is pictured deliberately kicking the grounded man in the face.
"It was an unpleasant incident and got sorted out internally," Storrie said, adding that further talks would take place to resolve the matter once Berkovic has returned from international duty next week and Hartson has come back from France, where he is receiving treatment for an ankle injury. Storrie said that as far as he was concerned, both players would be staying at the club.
Berkovic, however, expressed a different view of events in his column for Ma'ariv, an Israeli newspaper. "I am currently considering my future with West Ham," he wrote. It is understood that representatives for the player have already made approaches to several Premier League clubs to negotiate a move from Upton Park, and have been saying he is available for around pounds 3.5m.
Berkovic, obviously unhappy with the way his club handled his altercation with Hartson, contradicted West Ham's statement about how they handled the situation. "I think the West Ham management behaved very badly," he wrote. "They saw what had happened on the pitch but failed to do anything. No suspension, no fine, nothing."
What will happen after the players return from abroad remains to be seen, although the matter is likely to have further repercussions. Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, called for a "public reconciliation" between the players and added: "It's a matter of some concern to see players from the same club in a bust-up like that. Whether one player said another should not be fined is a matter for the club, but as it's now in the public domain, you might expect the FA to ask what happened."
A spokesman for the FA said: "If the video is available to us we'd like to look at it with a view to writing to West Ham for their observations. We need to establish the facts ourselves." It is understood the FA will obtain a copy of the video within the next few days.
As the incident happened in training, it would not normally be a matter for the FA to get involved in - skirmishes in training are not uncommon and are usually dealt with privately. Given the high profile of the case, however, and the explicit evidence, the FA want to be seen to take a strong interest in the incident, but it may decide West Ham have taken the correct course and let the matter drop.
Meanwhile, the matter of how the video got into the hands of the Mirror was a subject of fierce debate. Sources at Sky said West Ham had asked for the video not to be shown, so someone seems to have made a copy and sold it. Sky executives were said to have started an investigation to find the culprit.Reuse content