LIZ SEARL AND CLIVE WHITE
Julian Dicks, the West Ham full-back, was yesterday suspended for three matches after being found guilty of "violent conduct" by the Association amid claims that, despite hard evidence, it had settled for a trial by video.
The charge arose from an incident which left Chelsea's John Spencer needing eight stiches in a head wound.
After three hours of deliberation in a London hotel, an FA commission discounted expert advice and a submission by the full-back's victim.
Dicks was accused of stamping on Spencer's head out of the referee's view. The incident was captured on Sky Television, and the FA decided to act, despite protestations from Spencer that he believed the injury was not deliberate.
Spencer submitted a written statement for the hearing, which explained his view. The Chelsea manager, Glenn Hoddle, did not allow him to attend the hearing.
But after viewing video recordings "from two angles on very many occasions", the commission decided to follow the lead of the match referee, Robbie Hart. He was asked to view the incident and then said that had he seen the stamping on the field, Dicks would definitely have been sent off.
Controversially, the commission did not accept advice offered by Peter Harrison, the general secretary of the Physical Education Association, who told the commission that the collision was inevitable and an "unfortunate accident".
Harrison had been called to the hearing by West Ham, who had been confident before the hearing that Dicks' action would be vindicated, despite his poor discipline record. Dicks has been booked 54 times and sent off nine times during his career. After the verdict, theclub's managing director, Peter Storrie, said it would consider launching an appeal over the next two weeks.
"We are obviously all very disappointed," he said. "The short sentence imposed of three games shows that there was an element of doubt in the proceedings. It seems to me that it is the way the game is going. Trial by video is part of the business now and we have to accept that it works both ways."
Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, would not say whether he thought Dicks' "hard man" image had prompted the FA's decision to penalise the player, but he was shocked at the result. "I am convinced that he was innocent," he said, although he refused to blame the absence of Spencer for the guilty verdict. He was adamant that Dicks was not guilty in the eyes of the club, and announced that he would not be fined by them. The player will also retain his first team place.
Premiership clubs next season will be able to name five substitutes but will still only be allowed to send on three, the Premier League has decided. The decision should improve clubs' tactical options.
Hull City have placed their entire playing staff on the transfer list after being served with a winding-up order by the Inland Revenue.
The musician Rick Wakeman has dismissed reports that he is part of a consortium offering to inject pounds 10m into struggling Manchester City. Speculation that Wakeman was involved followed a remark by Michael Peck, a Manchester- based businessman, that his consortium was supported by a rock star. Wakeman is a big City fan.
Birmingham City are being investigated by the League after their First Division rivals Stoke City accused them of making an illegal approach to to re-sign striker Paul Peschisolido, who is married to the Birmingham managing director, Karren Brady.
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