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Saturday, October 24, 1998 Published at 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK

Di Canio ban too short, say referees

Paolo Di Canio (centre) arrives for the disciplinary hearing

Paolo di Canio has been banned for 11 matches and fined £10,000 after pushing referee Paul Alcock over during Sheffield Wednesday's game against Arsenal.

Sue Thearle reports on the push and the punishment
A Football Association disciplinary panel made the decision after finding him guilty of misconduct at a hearing at Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United FC.

Referee Paul Alcock reacts to the ban
The ban - which includes a three-match suspension for Di Canio's red card plus another eight matches for the push - means the Italian will not be able to play again until after Christmas.

But the decision has been greeted with dismay by Alcock and referees' chief Philip Don.

"A fair hearing"

Di Canio, 30, arrived at the hearing half an hour early, accompanied by his lawyer, Sandro Censie, and Wednesday officials Ian Stott, Alan Burbidge and Frank Pattison.

A group of Wednesday supporters waited outside, with one claiming that Di Canio's "only real crime was showing his passion for the club".

The BBC's Kevin Geary announces the ban on Radio 5 Live
But he was in contrite mood afterwards, saying: "I want to say that I'm very, very sorry for what's happened. I had a fair hearing. I'll see the Sheffield Wednesday fans on Boxing Day, the first game after my suspension."

Wednesday have confirmed that they will not be appealing against the disciplinary panel's decision.

The FA's director of public affairs, David Davies, who was at the game when the incident occurred, also attended the hearing.

"Following the hearing, the commission was unanimous that an urgent recommendation should go to the FA's disciplinary committee to ask that it should be made clear to all concerned that stronger penalties should be imposed immediately on any player who manhandles a match official," said Davies.

He added that Di Canio had "vehemently denied" newspaper reports which quoted him as accusing Alcock of falling deliberately.

How the incident occurred

Trouble flared in the final minute of the first half of Wednesday's home match with Arsenal on September 26.

[ image: The flashpoint]
The flashpoint
A clash between Wednesday's Petter Rudi and Patrick Vieira of Arsenal, which led to a melee involving both sets of players.

Di Canio became involved in a scuffle with Martin Keown, which ended when Rudi pulled him away.

Referee Alcock then called Di Canio over and showed him the red card. By his own admission,m Di Canio lost his temper and gesticulated at the official before pushing him in the chest.

Alcock fell to the ground and Di Canio was involved in an altercation with Arsenal's Nigel Winterburn before finally being ushered off the pitch and into the players' tunnel.

Referees unhappy

Former World Cup official Philip Don accused the FA of failing to send the right message to referees around the country.

"Paolo Di Canio has been found guilty of a major disciplinary issue and I don't think the punishment is correct," he said.

"There is a major problem with the recruitment of referees, with less than 50 per cent lasting less than a year.

"The Referees' Association is trying to look at ways of increasing the number of people who are taking up the whistle. What kind of message does this ban send out?"

Di Canio's ban exceeds the six-match suspension given to Newcastle's David Batty in May for pushing David Elleray after being sent off against Blackburn.

In 1997, Arsenal's French World Cup star Emmanuel Petit was banned for three games for pushing referee Paul Durkin.

And in 1996, Birmingham City defender Gary Poole was suspended for four matches for a physical clash with referee Richard Poulain.

Alcock contemplated giving up refereeing following the Di Canio incident, but subsequently decided to carry on. "I am concerned that the message being sent out by the FA can be interpreted as being lenient," he said.

But players' union chief executive Gordon Taylor said it was a important that "a measure of proportion and fairness" had been applied by the panel.

He added: "The player was fearful that it could mean the absolute end of his career.

"The punishment is heavy but its given him an opportunity to bounce back. We have had a long talk and he has convinced me how contrite he is and how willing he is to put this behind him."

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