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By ESPN Staff
Nov 13, 2007

Barton issues apology over challenge on Etuhu

Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton insists there was 'no malice' in his challenge on Dickson Etuhu during Saturday's derby draw against Sunderland.

The Football Association last night confirmed Barton will not be punished after referee Martin Atkinson decided to take no action over the studs-high tackle.

'There was no malice in it, nor was it premeditated,' Barton told Sky Sports News. 'If I caused him any injury, then I apologise.

'Things happen in the heat of a derby game. It was my third game back and I'm still a bit rusty. If I was fully match fit the situation would have been avoided.'

Atkinson did not get a full view of the challenge, so Barton has escaped action.

An FA spokesman said: 'The Football Association can only take action in the case of incidents that are not seen by officials.

'Whilst it is clear that the officials did not see the full extent of the incident, they did see players coming together and to take any further action would be tantamount to re-refereeing the game and this would be contrary to the laws of the game.'

No blame has been attached to Atkinson for his failure to take action against Barton during the match as he was unable to see the incident clearly from his position.

His assistant also saw the coming together and according to an FA source, 'no-one is suggesting any of them could or should have seen what you might call the misconduct part of the incident'.

Under FIFA guidelines, a retrospective charge for violent conduct can only be laid down in instances where the match official does not notice the incident at all.

The Association's `fast-track' disciplinary system is designed to act as an aid to officials for incidents completely out of sight of the referee or his assistants, such as off-the-ball clashes, and replicates action which would have been imposed had the referee or his assistants seen the incident.

A similar example to this case occurred last season when Jermain Defoe was alleged to have bitten Javier Mascherano.

No proceedings were initiated retrospectively by the FA because while the referee saw the two players clash, he did not see any actual violent conduct from his position on the pitch.