Football: Hartson fined pounds 20,000 by FA

JOHN HARTSON was yesterday fined pounds 20,000 and suspended for three games for his training ground attack on Eyal Berkovic in September.

The incident happened during a West Ham training session as Berkovic knelt on the ground after a hard tackle by his then team-mate. Caught on camera, the evidence supported Berkovic's assertion that "if my head had been a ball, it would have been in the top corner of the net".

Hartson, who left Upton Park to become Wimbledon's record signing for pounds 7.5m two weeks ago, was handed his punishment at a hearing of the Football Association's disciplinary committee at Lancaster Gate. He will miss three first-team matches for his new club from 15 February and pay the record- equalling fine after admitting a charge of misconduct. The fine equals those given to Vinnie Jones (then of Wimbledon) for putting his name to a video of vicious tackles, and to Arsenal's Patrick Vieira for an obscene gesture to the Sheffield Wednesday crowd last September.

A spokesman said: "We regard the incident as clearly being within our jurisdiction because John was a professional footballer going about his duties and subject to our rules," he said.

Hartson apologised at the FA hearing and the disciplinary committee accepted that he had since made his peace with Berkovic. The Israeli mid- fielder, who missed a reunion with Hartson when West Ham played Wimbledon last Saturday because of flu, had sent a letter to the committee saying that he and Hartson had settled their differences since the attack.

The committee accepted, the FA spokesman said, that the two players had subsequently gone on to train and play together and that no grudges had been held. West Ham's manager, Harry Redknapp, had already fined his centre- forward the maximum two weeks' wages - about pounds 10,000 - and donated the money to a children's leukaemia charity. Redknapp said last night: "It is a very harsh punishment in my view. I fined John pounds 10,000 after the incident but now they have done this to him."

Hartson's new manager, Joe Kinnear, said: "I need some time to think about this. I didn't expect that." Yesterday's disciplinary panel made its decision after hearing evidence from Hartson, who has 14 days to appeal against the decision.

Meanwhile, Liverpool's Rob Jones seems likely to become Redknapp's latest recruit. The former England right-back was in talks with the Hammers over the weekend and is looking at houses in the area before moving. Redknapp will try to agree a fee with Liverpool - he is likely to have to raise his opening offer of pounds 200,000.

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