Football: Vieira's pounds 20,000 fine for V-sign

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The Independent Online
THE ARSENAL midfielder Patrick Vieira was cleared of assaulting a police officer by a Football Association disciplinary commission yesterday but must pay a pounds 20,000 fine - equalling the record handed out by the FA - for a V-sign he made towards Sheffield Wednesday fans at the end of the Premiership match, won 1-0 by the Owls, at Hillsborough on 26 September.

The Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, was an eyewitness to the alleged tunnel bust-up between Vieira and South Yorkshire police officer Jim Tune and admitted after the hearing that he had feared the weight of police evidence - three officers including Tune attended the commission in Birmingham - would count against his 22-year-old French World Cup winner.

Wenger said: "I must admit I feared the case might have gone against Patrick and the club because it is not often you get three officers giving evidence in such a case. It's the first time I've seen that in 30 years in football. The evidence of the police is always strong and you will have to ask them why they decided to pursue this case.

"I am surprised the police came here and said what they did today because if there had been real evidence I would have expected a criminal case to have been brought against Patrick - not a footballing case."

When asked about the validity of the police evidence, Wenger said: "I would say the police were sincere but there was no aggressive behaviour from Patrick towards the police. I am not in the position to make any statement about justice in England. You can see that this was footballing justice."

Vieira's fine is the equivalent of around one and a half week's wages and equals the punishment given to Vinnie Jones for his narration of the Soccer's Hard Men video in November 1992.

An FA spokesman, Steve Double, said: "Patrick Vieira was today found guilty of misconduct following an incident at the end of the Sheffield Wednesday-Arsenal match in September. An FA commission heard police evidence that the player made a two-fingered gesture to the crowd at the end of the match.

"It is also said an officer who tried to usher Patrick Vieira down the players' tunnel was pushed in the chest, causing him to stumble across the tunnel. Vieira admitted to the commission that he had made a V-sign in response to racial abuse from the crowd. As he went down the tunnel he felt himself grabbed from behind by an unknown assailant. He said he had broken free without realising it was a police officer.

"The commission heard supporting evidence from club officials, including Arsene Wenger. The commission ruled that Vieira was guilty of misconduct in relation to the gesture to the crowd but not guilty in relation to any alleged assault against the police officer.

"Vieira has apologised to the commission over his conduct and has been reminded of his responsibilities as a footballer."

Vieira was also ordered to pay part of the costs of the three and a half hour hearing and warned as to his future conduct.

In a statement, Superintendent John Donnelly, of South Yorkshire police, said: "We have always said we would be happy with whatever the FA decided about Vieira's conduct.

"The incident in the tunnel involved one of our officers and we felt that the FA should take it into consideration when looking at the serious allegations about his behaviour.

"My officers are there to help, to prevent violence and trouble. Players need to know this as well as the fans."

Donnelly reiterated that the police would not be bringing any criminal prosecution against Vieira over the tunnel incident.

PAYING THE PRICE: TOP FINES IN THE NINETIES

pounds 20,000

Patrick Vieira (Arsenal)

December 1998: For making offensive gestures to fans during a 1-0 league defeat at Hillsborough.

pounds 20,000

Vinnie Jones (Wimbledon)

November 1992: Also given a six-month playing ban (suspended for three years) for narrating Soccer's Hard Men video, which gave advice on how to foul players without the referees' noticing.

pounds 15,000

Ian Wright (Arsenal)

July 1997: For remarks he made to a referee at Blackburn Rovers and for gestures he made to the crowd at Coventry City.

pounds 10,000

Paolo Di Canio (Sheff Wed)

November 1998: Also given 11-game suspension for pushing the referee Paul Alcock to the ground during stormy Premiership clash with Arsenal.

pounds 10,000

(suspended for two years) Hans Segers &

Bruce Grobbelaar

December 1997: Also given suspended six-month ban for breaking FA rules for betting on matches.

pounds 10,000

Faustino Asprilla (Newcastle)

April 1996: Also banned for one match after elbowing/butting Manchester City's Keith Curle at Maine Road.

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