Players told to pay their own defence costs

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The Independent Football

The Leicester City footballers embroiled in the La Manga affair have been told to conduct their legal defence in their own time, with their own money. Unlike Leeds United, who oversaw the trial defence of Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate, a situation which resulted in lawyers regularly attending the training ground, Leicester have decided it is time for the players, who had to provide their own bail fees, to look after themselves.

Paul Mace, the club's chief operating officer, said yesterday: "There was an onus of responsibility on us to bring them home; they're home. The players will now be engaging their own independent legal advisers to liase with the Spanish authorities."

The move is both because Leicester feel the players have let the club down, and an attempt to keep the internal focus on football. The club know the case could rumble on until the end of the season, with more lurid tales appearing in the media and training disrupted by players having to report to the Spanish Consulate in London under their bail conditions. The club will also be mounting their own investigation.

In an attempt to speed the process up, and avoid prejudicing the criminal investigation, the internal inquiry will restrict itself initially to considering non-criminal breaches of club discipline - such as public drunkenness. The penalty for most such transgressions is a fine of two weeks' wages, the Professional Footballers' Association maximum.

Further action may be taken after the Spanish authorities conclude their investigation. Serious cases will result in discussions with the PFA about stronger punishments including the possibility of sacking players. Even if it does not come to that, the most vulnerable member of the three players who spent last week in jail is Frank Sinclair as his contract expires at the end of the season. Keith Gillespie and Paul Dickov have a further year on theirs to run.

Sinclair, Dickov and Gillespie will rejoin the rest of the first-team squad this morning after having been told to spend the weekend with their families.

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