Football: FA rejects Taylor's `ultimate sanction'

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THE FOOTBALL Association has insisted that measures are already in place which allow for points to be docked from clubs with shameful disciplinary records.

The FA was reacting to a call from the Professional Footballers' Association's chief executive, Gordon Taylor, for the "ultimate sanction" to be taken of penalising clubs where it hurts most to clean up the game. But, although Arsenal are on course to set the worst tally of red cards in a season in the history of the Premiership, it seems almost certain that a fine - probably suspended - is the worst punishment they could expect.

Five Gunners players - Emmanuel Petit, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Gilles Grimandi and Patrick Vieira - have already been dismissed this season in Premiership games, while Ray Parlour was also sent off in Europe. With only 20 games gone so far, unless the club improve their record in the second half of the 38-match season, they will break the black mark of eight sendings-off held by Manchester City in 1995-96.

In 1990, Arsenal and Manchester United were given two-point and one-point penalties respectively for their part in a one-off 21-man brawl at Old Trafford. However, last season, Everton (75 yellows, five reds) and Leeds (75 yellows, four reds) were both given small suspended fines by the FA for their poor disciplinary records.

In a world where a pounds 50,000 fine means increasingly little, Taylor expressed his frustration in calling for clubs to be punished in the only way that would make chairmen and managers take action against players - deducting points. But an FA spokesman, Adrian Bevington, said: "There are already clear procedures in place in relation to clubs' disciplinary records. At the end of each season, the FA looks at every club's record and there are always wide measures available to us."

The FA seems to believe that the current punishments are enough, given that it is extremely rare for a club to earn a disciplinary hearing for their poor record in two consecutive seasons. Arsenal are by no means an isolated case, though, as Chelsea have 53 yellow cards and three reds so far this season, Blackburn have 45 yellows and four reds, and Everton's 59 yellows and two reds could mean their suspended fine comes into force.

Referees and their assistants are to be fitted with a three-way communications system in Premiership matches next season.

The Premier League's referees' officer, Philip Don, yesterday announced that Fifa, world football's ruling body, had given permission for the three officials to talk via headsets in a scheme which has been inspired by rugby union.

Don said: "It is an idea we have been discussing with the FA since September and we have noted that rugby union has had these communications between the officials for a couple of years. There is no suggestion that the comments between the officials will be transmitted on television like in other sports. Fifa does not allow this, anyway.

"It shows we are not backward when it comes to technology if it can be used to assist the referee and the other officials," Don added. He believes the microphone links will help linesmen warn referees of incidents that may happen behind their backs without having to flag furiously as happens now.