Football: Ruddock reprieved by the FA

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THE WEST HAM defender Neil Ruddock will face no action over remarks he made about the Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira following their infamous Upton Park bust-up.

The Frenchman received a six-match suspension and pounds 45,000 fine last week for spitting on Ruddock after being sent off in the game on 3 September.

There was a suggestion that Ruddock might also be censured for alleged racist remarks on television afterwards when he claimed he could smell garlic on Vieira's breath. But Ruddock met the FA compliance officer Graham Bean yesterday to discuss the comments and the matter is now closed. The FA's media relations manager, Steve Double, said: "It was never the FA's contention that Neil Ruddock made racist remarks and we fully accept that he is not racist - as his many black friends in the game will testify. He was reminded of his responsibilities towards his fellow professionals."

The FA did, however, charge two non-League clubs, Bamber Bridge and St Albans City, with failing to control players and officials, following a mass pitch brawl during their FA Cup first round encounter on Saturday.

Meanwhile, injury problems mounted for the England coach, Kevin Keegan, yesterday when he learnt that two of his full-backs - Manchester United's Gary Neville and Chelsea's Graeme Le Saux - are both out of the Euro 2000 play-off match against Scotland at Hampden Park a week on Saturday. Neville suffered a recurrence of his groin injury in Manchester United's Champions' League game with Sturm Graz on Tuesday, while Le Saux needs an operation on an ankle injury and will be out of action for three weeks. Keegan, who said he may make a `surprise' selection, is also without Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Kieron Dyer.

Gary Willard has been removed from the National List of Referees by a review board consisting of representatives from the FA, the Premier League and the Football League after an assessment of recent fitness tests.

Sheffield Wednesday have called off their pounds 2.75m deal with Leicester City for the striker Andy Booth after failing to reach a financial agreement with the Filbert Street club. The Owls are understood to have wanted the entire fee up front to ease their financial crisis, while Leicester were believed to have preferred an instalment method.

Derby County have had a pounds 3m bid for Bolton's Iceland international striker, Eidur Gudjohnsen, turned down.

Nottingham Forest said yesterday that proceedings had been issued in the High Court following opposition to a takeover of the First Division club.

Shareholders in the holding company which owns the club voted in July to accept an offer for the sale of 41 per cent of the subsidiary for pounds 6m. The offer from the venture capitalist Nigel Doughty was opposed by the former directors Irving Scholar and Julian Markham, who quit shortly after the vote because they wanted Doughty to buy the holding company itself.

Nottingham Forest said the court action had been brought against the company, the club and its individual directors by two companies in which Markham and Scholar were shareholders.