Record fine for Bowyer but Dyer in clear

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Newcastle United yesterday fined Lee Bowyer a record six weeks' wages, or £210,000, for his part in Saturday's on-pitch fight with his team-mate Kieron Dyer, and then effectively cleared Dyer of any blame for the incident.

Newcastle United yesterday fined Lee Bowyer a record six weeks' wages, or £210,000, for his part in Saturday's on-pitch fight with his team-mate Kieron Dyer, and then effectively cleared Dyer of any blame for the incident.

In a damning statement that left no doubt that Bowyer alone is being held responsible, the club said he had also been "severely censured and additionally warned as to his future conduct following his attack on Kieron Dyer".

The statement was made after Newcastle's chairman, Freddy Shepherd, and manager, Graeme Souness, interviewed both players before training yesterday.

Shepherd last night admitted he had "considered sacking" Bowyer. Shepherd said: "We could have done - it was gross misconduct. But we thought a fine and a final warning was fitting." Asked if Bowyer should consider himself lucky he was still a Newcastle player, Shepherd replied: "He should go down on his hands and knees."

Though video evidence testifies that Bowyer and Dyer were both shown red cards for aggressive behaviour - Bowyer threw the first punch, yet also had his shirt ripped open by Dyer - Newcastle will submit a claim of wrongful dismissal to the Football Association on Dyer's behalf this morning.

Because of an earlier dismissal this season, Bowyer is certain to receive a mandatory four-match ban at least, which will mean that he will miss Newcastle's trip to Tottenham on Sunday, their FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United on 17 April, and then League games at Norwich and Old Trafford.

If Newcastle are successful in appealing against Dyer's red card, he will not miss any games at all. The FA will hear both cases today, and swift rulings are expected. Newcastle's contrasting stance towards the players outwardly suggests Bowyer's future at St James' Park is the more uncertain of the two, but an alternative interpretation is that neither player will be wearing black and white beyond this season.

Souness said both players "most definitely" have futures at the club but said nothing about for how long. The club's public warning to Bowyer, whose contract runs to 2007, suggests he is on borrowed time and there is local feeling that he will be sold in the summer.

The pro-Dyer stance might also be glossing over a more complex situation. Dyer's contract expires next summer, when the 26-year-old will be free to leave for nothing. He has shown no enthusiasm for signing an extension. That Newcastle appear to be backing him so firmly over Saturday's debacle could be a sign that Souness is keener for Dyer to stay than Dyer is himself.

An illustration of how warily Souness must tread came yesterday when he was forced to clarify what he meant when he said Dyer and Bowyer had "had a laugh" about Saturday.

"When I said the players were having a laugh about it, I did not mean the seriousness of the incident, which cannot be understated," he said.

"I was meaning the implication put out by certain members of the media that the two had been at loggerheads for a long time and it was that which had sparked the incident off. Everyone at Newcastle knows this is without foundation.

"The players get on very well together, and that's why the two players were having a laugh about it. I cannot condone the incident, hence the extremely firm action the club has taken."

Northumbria police, who will hold meetings with Newcastle officials this week, have yet to decide whether they will tolerate Saturday's scrap. There is a possibility of charges against one or both players but that is highly unlikely. No formal complaint has been received by the police and neither Dyer nor Bowyer will make one. Newcastle will argue that the matter has been dealt with and the police are likely to agree.

The fallout robbed Shepherd of a rare opportunity for positive news - Newcastle yesterday announced a £5.1m profit in their half-yearly figures to 31 January, an increase of £4.5m on last year.

Turnover was up three per cent to £49.5m, match revenue was up five per cent and television income up seven per cent.

The opening of Shearer's Bar (officially Newcastle's largest bar), plus staging England internationals and being involved in the Hollywood movie Goal! also assisted the club's finances. The profits from the £13.4m sale of Jonathan Woodgate to Real Madrid helped result in an overall surplus of £8.2m on player trading, despite buying Jean-Alain Boumsong, Celestine Babayaro and Amdy Faye.

Newcastle's profits would have been even higher if the club had not agreed a £2.1m pay-off for Sir Bobby Robson, who was sacked in August.

"It has been agreed in principle. There has been no tribunal, it has been down to negotiation and Bobby has never lost a penny on the contract," Shepherd said. Robson's settlement has pushed the club's wages-to-turnover ration to 51 per cent, just over their 50 per cent target.

Whether that will be reduced by the departures of Bowyer Dyer remains to be seen.

Newcastle were unable to confirm last night whether Bowyer's £210,000 fine will boost the coffers. The destination of fines is at the discretion of the club.

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