Like the doping control officers who were to take his drug test Rio Ferdinand was kept waiting last night for the verdict on his failure to meet them. Ferdinand spent three hours having a personal hearing in Manchester with the Football Association's head of compliance, Steve Barrow, the latest stage in a disciplinary process initiated when Ferdinand failed to take the test on 23 September.
Barrow is understood to be awaiting further documentation before ruling. He has to decide whether Ferdinand should be charged and, if so, whether it should be with merely failing to take the test or the more serious charge of wilfully missing it. The probable outcome today is a misconduct charge for failing to attend.
The £30m Manchester United defender, whose dropping from the England team to play Turkey almost caused a strike by the national squad, was accompanied by Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association.
Taylor said Ferdinand now understood the seriousness of missing a drugs test, but said he had been punished already in being omitted from Saturday's Euro 2004 qualifier in Istanbul.
Taylor said: "I, for one, know that he has already suffered a penalty in having his name castigated all over the world on the front of every newspaper and being condemned for drugs when he's made his position very clear on them. He's never tested positive and he specifically works in inner-city areas and speaks to youngsters about the dangers of crime and drugs."
Taylor has been very critical of the FA's handling of the affair, especially over the issue of confidentiality, but was more conciliatory yesterday. He admitted it was always going to be difficult to keep Ferdinand's identity secret but hoped his exposure would be taken into consideration.
Taylor added: "Rio was given the opportunity to give a full and detailed explanation and reiterated his intention to take the test later that same day. He is certainly taking it seriously now and he took it very seriously the minute that he remembered and made every attempt to get tested that same day. Of course, they [the FA] will want to see the evidence of that, with the phone calls and so on."
Ferdinand can expect a fine which, though heavy by most people's standards, he will easily meet. The FA would like to administer a short ban but that would be challenged by United because previous cases led only to fines. After Ferdinand's case is over the FA are expected to issue a warning to future offenders of far sterner penalties.
Ferdinand is not the only man waiting for a verdict. Uefa, the sport's European governing body, confirmed they will be investigating incidents at the match he missed. Though they praised the Turkish FA's safety and security measures Uefa are likely to fine them after missiles were thrown on to the pitch and flares lit. The Disciplinary Committee will rule on 30 October. Uefa might also take action against the Turkish and English FAs, and individual players, following the half-time mêlée in the tunnel. Mike Lee, Uefa's director of communications, said the report of Pierluigi Collina, the Italian referee, had been received and "as a result we have decided to request video evidence before deciding whether or not a formal disciplinary process is needed."
Collina called David Beckham and Aston Villa defender Ozalan Alpay into his room at half-time after confrontations between the pair after Beckham's penalty miss and at half-time. He ordered them to calm down and pass the same message to their team-mates.
Lee added: "Mr Collina was able to see most of what happened in the tunnel himself and dealt with what happened well. We have to make sure that he did not miss anything before deciding whether or not to take disciplinary action."
The most likely incidents to be viewed on video are Beckham's butt into Alpay's face after the Turk taunted him over the penalty; Alpay poking his finger into Beckham's face at half-time, thus provoking the tunnel brawl; and Okan Buruk's elbow into Beckham's ribs during the second half. Beckham is least likely to be punished since Collina saw the first incident and took no action at the time.
Completing a day of indecision Arsenal were given a further 24 hours to respond to the misconduct and violent conduct charges brought against the club and six players after last month's match at Old Trafford.
Arsenal and Manchester United had originally been required to either request personal hearings, or admit guilt, by the end of last week. This deadline was extended by the FA until yesterday because of the clubs' Champions' League commitments but only United, who had two players charged, had replied. Arsenal must now respond by this afternoon.
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