One-match ban and fine for Asprilla

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United brought up the big guns to defend Faustino Asprilla before a Football Association disciplinary commission in a Leeds hotel yesterday but in the event they need hardly have bothered.

The Colombian striker was found guilty on two misconduct charges that followed his tangles with Manchester City's Keith Curle during a Premiership match at Maine Road in February, but he escaped with a one-match ban, at the start of next season, and a fine of pounds 10,000.

Newcastle's concern about the possible consequences for their record pounds 7.5m signing from Parma of a case that had been delayed by nine weeks was clear in the size of their delegation to the hearing. It was seven strong, including Asprilla, his interpreter and Newcastle's manager, Kevin Keegan.

The club's solicitor, Stephen Hornsby, questioned the commission's right to view video evidence of two incidents over which the referee, Martin Bodenham, took no action. In the first, Asprilla appeared to elbow Curle as the defender pulled him back, and in the other, at the end of the game, the Colombian appeared to butt the Manchester City captain, with a linesman standing close by.

The three-man commission, headed by the Lincoln chairman John Reames, took legal advice - their senior lawyer Raj Parker outlined the FA case - before rejecting that challenge, and a video of the elbowing incident was then shown three times.

After the four-hour hearing, the FA spokesman Steve Double announced that Asprilla had been found guilty of both elbowing and butting Curle, who was cleared of his charge of behaving in an "aggressive manner" after a subsequent 45-minute hearing.

"On the first charge [the elbow], the commission ruled that Mr Asprilla would pay part of the cost of the hearing, serve a one-match ban from the start of next season and be fined pounds 10,000," Doubles said. "On the second charge, it was decided that no penalty would be imposed."

Although the ban is short, the fine is the highest imposed by the FA for an on-field incident and matches the one levied on Eric Cantona for his attack on a fan at Selhurst Park last year. Neither Asprilla nor Keegan commented on the verdict.

Double said Newcastle's club secretary, Russell Cushing, indicated the St James' Park board would seek legal advice before deciding on an appeal.

Asprilla could have come off worse. Arsenal's Paul Davis was given a nine-match ban for breaking the jaw of the Southampton midfielder, Glenn Cockerill, off the ball in the late 1980s. A six-match ban would not have been surprising.

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