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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 22:21 GMT
Q&A: Arsenal's punishment
Martin Keown confronts Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford

The Football Association has suspended four Arsenal players and handed out fines totalling 275,000 in one of English club football's biggest disciplinary crackdowns.

The penalties were imposed for Arsenal's role in the ugly scenes which followed the London club's 0-0 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford on 21 September.

BBC Sport's news correspondent Nigel Adderley examines the ramifications of the FA's tough stance.

Q: What precedent does it set?

A: It's a record fine for an individual club and we've not had mass suspensions like this before.

So it shows the FA are determined to clamp down on ill-discipline and Arsenal are among the first to suffer.

Q: What message does it send out to football?

A: It says that troublemakers must expect to face the consequences, but a points deduction might have been a more telling punishment.

Q: The FA seem to be making a strong statement, so should Rio Ferdinand brace himself for a hefty ban after failing to attend a drugs test?

A: The general beefing up of the disciplinary process does include doping but the Ferdinand case is very different.

All the evidence the FA needed in the Arsenal case was broadcast live on television and they pleaded guilty at the outset.

Ferdinand's team are determined to fight the charge and the FA may find it far harder to prove that the player missed his drugs test for any other reason than forgetfulness.

Q: Is there any point in Arsenal appealing?

A: Having pleaded guilty in the first place, probably not.

The bans don't start until after the Tottenham derby on 8 November, and at the moment the games the players will miss are mainly against teams in the bottom half of the table.

If they appeal, the bans will be delayed and could then cover bigger games if they aren't successful.

Q: What punishment can Man Utd's Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo expect for their part in the scenes at Old Trafford?

At least a heavy fine and possibly a short ban as well. Anything less might be seen as double standards, not least by Arsenal.

Q: Do you think clubs will be unhappy with the hard-line stance the FA appear to be taking?

Arsenal's upcoming opponents might appreciate the absense of Vieira and Co, but generally they now know if their players step out of line, the FA will hit them hard.

BBC Sport's Nigel Adderley
"The fine is a record for a single club"

Deadlock at Old Trafford
21 Sep 03  |  Premiership

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