England U-21 players fight Uefa bid for longer bans


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The Independent Football

Tom Ince and Steven Caulker could have their Uefa bans increased today when they appeal against their punishments for incidents at Serbia's shameful game with England's Under-21 team last October.

The two players were given suspensions – Ince for one match and Caulker for two games – for problems at the end of a fiery play-off in Krusevac which led to the host country being disciplined for racist abuse and violent behaviour.

The Football Association has appealed on behalf of the players but Uefa has mounted a counter-appeal, asking for all the sanctions handed out to both Serbia and England to be increased.

Blackpool winger Ince and Tottenham defender Caulker will make personal appearances at today's appeal hearing at Uefa's headquarters in Nyon, on the shores of Lake Geneva.

They will be accompanied by the England Under-21 manager, Stuart Pearce, and two FA legal representatives, one of whom is a Swiss lawyer.

Caulker and Ince plus four Serbian players and two coaches were banned after the European Under-21 play-off match, which England won 1-0 to qualify for this year's finals in Israel, ended in a brawl.

It followed racist chants from Serbian fans towards England players, and Uefa's disciplinary panel ordered Serbia to play their next competitive Under-21 match behind closed doors and imposed a £65,000 fine.

Uefa had wanted tougher sanctions however and has put in its own appeal to have these increased – including for the two England players.

The FA general secretary, Alex Horne, said after the bans were first announced that he was surprised by the sanctions.

He said then: "It is the FA's vehement belief that its players and staff acted correctly in the face of provocation, including racist abuse and missiles being thrown.

"We are therefore surprised to see that two of our players have been given suspensions."