Wenger to appeal against 'injustice' of ban

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The Independent Online

The Football Association will shortly be receiving a letter from Arsÿne Wenger, though not the one for which they were hoping. After confirming yesterday that he will not be applying to succeed Kevin Keegan as England's coach, the Arsenal manager announced that he would be writing to appeal against the 12-match touchline ban imposed on him by an FA disciplinary commission this week. If that fails, he may even go through the courts to right what he considers to be "an injustice".

The Football Association will shortly be receiving a letter from Arsÿne Wenger, though not the one for which they were hoping. After confirming yesterday that he will not be applying to succeed Kevin Keegan as England's coach, the Arsenal manager announced that he would be writing to appeal against the 12-match touchline ban imposed on him by an FA disciplinary commission this week. If that fails, he may even go through the courts to right what he considers to be "an injustice".

The normally mild-mannered Frenchman is furious at becoming one of the first victims of the FA's new guidelines on discipline. Following an incident with the fourth official, Paul Taylor, at the end of Arsenal's opening game of the season at Sunderland, he was charged with threateningbehaviour.

Wenger insisted that he merely stepped in between Arsenal's Thierry Henry and Sunderland's Darren Williams in the tunnel, but the ban, and fine of four weeks' wages, were the minimum recommended for any player or club official who "jostles or holds a match official".

"It's not only a harsh punishment, but I'm the victim of an injustice," Wenger said yesterday. "I will first appeal, then have to consider it with my lawyer. I could go to a legal court - I don't rule anything out. It's unacceptable and unbelievable, because my intention was not to insult anybody. I just behaved like I had to. But they judged the situation to the letter of the law and didn't look at my intentions. When I listened to the sanctions, I couldn't believe it. I felt like I'd killed somebody."

An FA spokesman said that he had 14 days in which to appeal - the ban is not due to begin until 30 October - and could lodge a formal complaint about either the verdict or the size of the punishment. Appeals committees consist of an independent chairman and two FA councillors.

The punishment as it stands would be a serious blow to Wenger, who, unlike many managers, prefers to spend the whole of every match on the touchline, in order to be in closer touch with his coaches and players. In a lighter moment, he suggested the only way of getting back the four weeks' wages would be as a signing-on fee for the England job. The FA would surely forgive him anything if he would take it, but their loss is Arsenal's gain, for he is determined to see out his contract at Highbury, which does not expire until the summer of 2002. At that stage, he might be ready to make the leap from club football to international management, but he is not in favour of an arrangement like Germany's, in which Rudi Völler has been put in as a caretaker until Christophe Daum is available.

Wenger also disagrees strongly with the notion floated by Howard Wilkinson that England might have to forget about this World Cup and work towards the long-term. "You cannot say to a country of 50 million people who love football that you will write your chances off when you have only played two games," he said.

His advice to the Arsenal vice-chairman, David Dein, and the other members of the panel helping the FA's Adam Crozier find a new coach is that they should look for an Englishman, of whom he believes there are "two or three" with the required level of international experience and tactical know-how. Failing that he would look abroad, but only at coaches with a good command of English.

For many people inside and outside the game, Wenger's decision means that the case for Terry Venables becomes even stronger. His odds duly hardened yesterday to evens favourite, while there has been a run of betting on Roy Hodgson (5-1 from 33-1). So much interest was shown in Sven-Goran Eriksson yesterday that at one stage William Hill suspended betting on him. He came in from a 33-1 outsider to 7-2 second favourite, but his backers look certain to be disappointed. Eriksson said in Rome yesterday that he was happy to stay at Lazio and was "absolutely not interested in coaching a national team".

The former FA chief executive, Graham Kelly, has warned the seven-man panel who will choose the new England coach not to make their choice without consulting leading figures within the game. In his Football Association post, Kelly was involved in the decision-making process which saw both Graham Taylor and Venables elevated to the most senior managerial position within the English game.

And he believes the lessons from his own mistakes should be taken on board by his predecessor Adam Crozier.

"I'm fairly sure they will talk about the situation amongst themselves, then canvass opinion within the game," said Kelly, who left his job following the cash-for-votes scandal during the 2006 World Cup bid campaign.

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