FOOTBALL: Gregory's `shoot the ref' remarks go unpunished

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The Independent Online
THE FOOTBALL Association is to take no action against the Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, over his "shoot the ref" comments towards the official Steve Lodge after Wednesday's Worthington Cup match with West Ham at Upton Park.

Gregory made the remark after the home side were awarded a last-minute penalty by Lodge which enabled them to force the game into extra-time, and eventually triumph in a penalty shoot-out.

The Villa manager, currently serving a 28-day touchline ban for an outburst aimed at a fourth official, Andy D'Urso, was reported to have said: "I don't think we should have shoot-outs. We should have a shoot-the-ref shoot-out. After that one [the last-minute penalty], the referee should have been shot. If that incident had happened up at the other end, there would not have been a penalty."

But Lancaster Gate is satisfied that the comments were made in a light- hearted manner and believes Gregory has no case to answer. It was the second piece of good news in 24 hours for Gregory, who was also deemed by the FA not to be in breach of his touchline ban at Upton Park when he came on to the pitch to give a team talk after normal time and then again before the penalty shoot-out.

Gianluca Vialli will not be allowed near the touchline for Chelsea's next Champions' League game in Marseilles in March. The Chelsea manager was ordered off the bench during the 0-0 draw with Lazio in Rome after protesting to an assistant referee, and has now been punished by Uefa, European football's governing body.

The Football Association of Ireland revealed yesterday that it had been fined 10,000 Swiss francs (pounds 4,000) by Uefa as a result of scuffles which broke out at the end of last month's Euro 2000 qualifying play-off against Turkey in Bursa. The FAI said it would appeal against the Uefa ruling which also included a four-match suspension for the Nancy striker Tony Cascarino, who confronted Turkey's Ali Eren Beserler after the second- leg match which ended goalless to send Turkey through.

Riot police escorted the Irish players off the pitch as fighting broke out and some Turkish fans rushed on trying to attack the Ireland players. Uefa said it had also taken into consideration "repeated acts of violence" by Cascarino in imposing his ban, which applies to the first four World Cup qualifying games. However, the 37-year-old has now retired from international football and will not be affected by the ban.