Football: Taylor seeks action on dangerous elbows: The Professional Footballers' Association to start dressing-room poster campaign and urges stronger action by referees

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The Independent Online
THE Professional Footballers' Association has renewed its attack on the spreading use of raised elbows in the game after the Aston Villa defender, Neil Cox, was seen on television making a dangerous challenge which could have seriously injured the Norwich goalkeeper, Bryan Gunn. Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the player's union, said he was concerned to witness another example of the offence so soon after the controversy surrounding John Fashanu's clash with Gary Mabbutt.

Today Mabbutt sees a specialist about the double operation he still requires to repair his battered face after the collision with Fashanu's elbow. The horrific injuries suffered by the Tottenham captain and those of other victims are to be reproduced in a PFA poster campaign which will be displayed in every dressing-room.

Taylor's organisation has also urged referees to counter such incidents with strong action and he was disappointed that David Elleray, the referee at Carrow Road on Wednesday, spoke to Cox but decided not to book him.

The game was only a minute old when the Villa player, who last week was fined two weeks wages by manager Ron Atkinson for aiming V signs at the Old Trafford crowd during their recent match with Manchester United, charged late and clumsily at Gunn and hit him over the eye with his left elbow. The Scottish goalkeeper needed lengthy treatment and Taylor said: 'It was the classic example of what we are trying to eradicate. When I saw it I thought 'Oh no, here we go again,' because it was the last thing we needed at this time.

'I hesitate to make a personal attack on one of our members but it was a challenge to a player's head which could cause serious injury. No doubt Cox regretted it afterwards but it was fortunate Gunn was not badly hurt.'

After the Mabbutt case the PFA wrote to the Football Association urging that the use of elbows be considered as reckless and dangerous play and punished accordingly. 'Where they cause injury and there is intent it should be an automatic sending-off offence and the normal ban increased from three games to between three and six,' Taylor added.

'Dismissals involving elbows were up 25 per cent last season and I would think they're going to be up again this season. If players get away without punishment there will be even more. Certainly I thought Cox's challenge warranted a yellow card and it's particularly disappointing because Mr Elleray is one of our top referees and sits on the FA's technical committee.'

Elleray said he saw Cox make contact with his arm but judged there was no intent. 'Bryan Gunn told me he had only just been caught and asked that Cox was not booked. I understand it looked bad from one television angle and although I stand by the action I took at the time if I have made a mistake I am happy to hold my hands up and admit it.'

The Swindon keeper, Fraser Digby, will miss the next five weeks with a dislocated shoulder and his club are furious that the referee, Philip Don, allowed play to continue with him lying on the ground during the match at Sheffield Wednesday enabling the home side to score their second goal. 'Play seems to be stopped these days whenever a player gets injured and yet our goalkeeper was flat out and nothing happened until the ball was in the net,' said the Swindon manager, John Gorman.

Non-League Notebook, page 30