Bowyer promises to negotiate new terms with Leeds

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The Independent Online

Lee Bowyer has promised the Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, that he will negotiate terms on a new contract within the next few weeks. Ridsdale has threatened to sell Bowyer this summer if the midfielder does not sign an extension to his current contract which has 16 months to run. Arsenal and Chelsea are understood to be monitoring Bowyer's position, with the midfielder rated at £15m despite a dip in form.

Ridsdale is eager to conclude negotiations as a contract has been on the table for six months, although he remains confident that the 25-year-old will remain at Elland Road.

An agreement had been struck that nothing would be signed until the conclusion of the retrial at Hull Crown Court, where Bowyer was acquitted on charges of affray and grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to an assault on a student. However, two months have elapsed with Bowyer no nearer to pledging his future to Leeds, although his solicitor, David Geiss, says there is no hidden agenda.

Geiss says Bowyer, who is serving a six-game ban, making him ineligible for Premier League duty until 30 March, when Leeds play Manchester United, is happy at Elland Road. "We expect to be sitting down with Peter Ridsdale in the near future," he said. The only stumbling block is likely to be the personal terms of the five-year deal, although Bowyer would see his pay rise from £16,000 to £25,000 per week.

Leeds have joined the race for a place in next season's Intertoto Cup, but with hopes still high of avoiding Europe's most dreaded competition. Ten months after reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, Ridsdale has confirmed Leeds have joined Aston Villa and Ipswich in applying to compete in the Intertoto.

Ridsdale has already made it clear Leeds have to play in Europe at all costs given the amount of money spent by the club's manager, David O'Leary, in the transfer market and to cover an escalating wage bill.

Leeds still covet a return to the Champions League, but that is looking a remote prospect as they are sixth in the Premiership, eight points adrift of the top four who are all guaranteed entry into the top club tournament.

Competing in the Uefa Cup for a third time in four seasons remains Leeds' best hope of avoiding starting their next campaign in the Intertoto Cup in mid-July. As they are out of both domestic cup competitions, grabbing fifth place in the league may be their only route although they could yet win this season's Uefa Cup. However, they will start tomorrow's fourth-round first leg as outsiders against the Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven.

The Premier League were yesterday hoping to reach an outline agreement with the Professional Footballers' Association over a new standard contract for players which would enable clubs to fine them up to four weeks' wages.

Clubs would also be given the power to suspend players after the most serious off-pitch incidents. However, both parties believe doubling the current maximum two-week fine may prove the most effective deterrent in the majority of cases.

The game's governing bodies have been keen to clamp down on indiscipline on and, especially, off the pitch over recent months. The PFA have been keen to stress the need for clubs to take increased responsibility for their players' actions and it is recognised that discretion is needed as two-week fines tend to represent far more serious penalties for players in the lower divisions.

Talks involving the Premier League, Football League and the PFA, as well as the Football Association, have been taking place over recent weeks. The Premier League chairman Dave Richards and company secretary Mike Foster were yesterday among those meeting PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor in an attempt to reach a final agreement.

In the proposed new contracts, which would set out the standard terms of conditions of employment, the FA would largely continue to hold sway over on-pitch incidents under their disciplinary guidelines. However, discretion would be allowed for clubs to impose fines of up to four weeks' wages in cases of breaches of discipline off the field of play.

Under current rules, Leeds had to gain Bowyer's agreement to accept a four-week fine for still breaking club rules even after he was cleared of charges of assault and affray.

As part of the new proposals, there would still be a procedure in which representatives of the club and player, as well as an independent chairman, would rule on appeals.

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