West Ham face FA charge over referee protest

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The Independent Football

West Ham have been charged with harassing the referee Rob Styles as Paolo di Canio became one of four Hammers players to be accused of "protesting aggressively" against the sending-off of Igor Stimac last week.

West Ham have been charged with harassing the referee Rob Styles as Paolo di Canio became one of four Hammers players to be accused of "protesting aggressively" against the sending-off of Igor Stimac last week.

The Premiership club could, under the Football Association's new disciplinary guidelines, face a fine of up to £250,000 if found guilty, while Di Canio may be banned for three games. The other three players charged with improper conduct following the incident during last week's game against Leicester were England international Rio Ferdinand, striker Davor Suker and teenage midfielder Michael Carrick.

But it is di Canio whose FA charge will come under the greatest public scrutiny, given his infamous push on referee Paul Alcock at Hillsborough in September 1998 for which he was banned for eight games. His past record will be taken into account by the FA disciplinary commission, but it is not believed that he will receive any more than a three-game ban and a fine if found guilty as no physical contact is alleged. Indeed, given that he and the other three West Ham players have been charged with 'improper conduct' rather than a more serious offence, they could even face simply a fine as there is no fixed penalty.

The incident occurred at Upton Park last week when Stimac was sent off for his second bookable offence, a decision made by Styles in his first-ever Premiership game as a referee and details of the verbal harassment were included in his report.

An FA statement said: "The FA today charged West Ham United with the harassment of match official Rob Styles during the course of last week's Premier League game against Leicester City. In doing so the FA have also charged four West Ham players with improper conduct for bringing the game into disrepute. They are Davor Suker, Paolo di Canio, Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand."

The charges were based on Styles' official match report without the use of video evidence. Referees have been actively encouraged by the FA to report any incidents in which they feel they have been harassed by players.

Following the game at Upton Park, which Leicester won 1-0, Styles was criticised by the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, for dismissing Stimac in the latest attack on overall refereeing standards by a club official.

Stimac himself insisted that the Leicester midfielder Robbie Savage, who he was deemed to have body-checked to earn his second yellow card, should be punished by the FA for his reaction.

West Ham were informed of the FA charges earlier today. They have 14 days to respond.

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