Football: FA asks to see video of Hartson

Player violence: West Ham say Berkovic opposed fine on Welsh international striker after training ground incident
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The Independent Online
THE CONTROVERSY surrounding John Hartson's training ground confrontation with Eyal Berkovic intensified yesterday as pictures of the incident were made public and the club came under pressure to take appropriate action.

The Football Association asked to see a Sky Television recording of the incident following publication in a newspaper of still photographs taken from the film. While West Ham said a fine imposed on Hartson had been lifted at Berkovic's request, the Professional Footballers' Association called for a "public reconciliation" between the two players.

The photographs published yesterday showed Berkovic lying on the ground after a tackle 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," said Peter Storrie, West Ham's chief executive. "Action was taken and Hartson was fined two weeks' wages, the maximum penalty we can impose under FA rules," he added of the incident, which happened 11 days ago in training. "Berkovic then asked for the fine not to happen."

Storrie added 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. He 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."

Harry Redknapp, West Ham's manager, was also unhappy about events, not least because the matter had been made public. "I am disappointed with Sky, because we let them in to take some training pictures," he said. "That is what happens when you try to do people favours, they stitch you up." A spokesman for Sky - which is, according to insiders, unhappy with events and investigating how the tape was leaked - said the station had had a contract to film and broadcast training, which it had not breached.

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 that 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 be concerned with - skirmishes in training are not uncommon and are usually dealt with privately. Given the explicit evidence, however the FA want to be seen to be investigating the incident, but may decide that West Ham have taken the correct course and let the matter drop.

Wenger to defend Vieira, page 31

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