Football: Le Saux and Fowler charged by the FA

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GRAEME LE SAUX and Robbie Fowler have been charged with misconduct by the Football Association following the England team-mates' running feud during Chelsea's 2-1 Premiership victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Le Saux, the Chelsea full-back, appeared to elbow Fowler after being taunted by the Liverpool striker. The FA made its decision after studying video evidence. The pair have 14 days to lodge an appeal.

The referee, Paul Durkin, and fourth official, Dermot Gallagher, missed the off-the-ball incident, which left Fowler flat on the turf. However, television pictures, captured by BBC's Match Of The Day cameras, appeared to show Le Saux's elbow make contact with the back of Fowler's head. Bad feeling between the players had been building up before the incident, with Fowler goading Le Saux.

After seeing the video evidence himself Durkin, who had booked both players earlier and warned them to stop the goading, said that had he seen the incident he would have sent Le Saux off.

Now the pair, who looked certain to be called up by the new England coach, Kevin Keegan for the vital Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland on 27 March, are likely to be hit with suspensions and fines by the FA.

The Chelsea player-manager, Gianluca Vialli, yesterday called for an amicable solution, asking Le Saux and Fowler to shake hands on the incident.

"They were both wrong to do what they did and now I think it would be fine to see the pair of them get together, admit that they both made a mistake, and then say, `let's forget it'." Vialli said.

Vialli said he will be taking no action over the incident against Le Saux, but he has spoken to him. "When you are in a team that becomes very good you have to handle the stick. I know from experience that it has been far worse in Italy than it is here. Graeme knows something has gone wrong and he is the first one to admit he has made a mistake, and now he should know what to do if it happens in the future.

"I cannot say too much to him because I was sent off myself against Blackburn a few weeks ago. But with a player like Graeme I don't have to say too much."

Vialli believes Chelsea can mount a strong defence of Le Saux to save him a possible four-match ban.

"I'm thinking about the match recently when Arsenal played Preston and one of Preston's players was hit before Arsenal scored a goal. Everybody saw it on video, but it was not in the referee's report and no action was taken," Vialli added.

The man who escaped an FA charge on that occasion was Arsenal's Spanish reserve striker Fabian Caballero, but the FA has used video evidence several times to bring players to book.

Le Saux has been involved in at least two other incidents this season, a bust-up with Arsenal's Lee Dixon in August and another at Blackburn - his former club - a few weeks later when both Le Saux and French midfielder Sebastien Perez were dismissed.

The Referees' Association has backed the FA's decision to use video evidence. Its president, Peter Willis, has welcomed the growing trend for trial- by-television.

"If the FA and clubs are prepared to accept the use video evidence to exonerate players, then I cannot see the problem in using the same video evidence to show where players have misbehaved when they haven't been seen," Willis said.

"It is simple justice. It is not a question of how you get caught. If people break the rules in a serious nature, then it is right and proper that the governing bodies look at it."