Stoke chairman Peter Coates believes Ricardo Fuller's red card for his sensational on-field spat with captain Andy Griffin could have been avoided by better refereeing.
The Jamaican was red-carded in the defeat by West Ham after slapping captain Andy Griffin but Coates has questioned the judgement of referee Michael Jones in dismissing Fuller at Upton Park and said: "I'm not condoning it but can't referees use discretion?
"I thought the referee could have handled it better. You see things far worse on the pitch all the time go unpunished.
"Let's not get it out of proportion - it was hardly a punch like Muhammad Ali.
"Little incidents and spats happen all the time, on the pitch and on the training ground, we mustn't forget that."
Coates is due to meet manager Tony Pulis when Fuller and Griffin return to training with the rest of the squad on New Year's Eve.
"I'm very disappointed in Ricardo indeed," said Coates. "The incident shouldn't have happened, it was unprofessional.
"He's an emotional guy but needs to control himself. But in the heat of the moment, these things can happen.
"We all do things that we regret and I'm sure he is regretting it now. We are going to deal with this within the club as that's the way it should be dealt with. Tony Pulis will come in to do whatever is necessary.
"I'm sure they can play together again, the guys get on well with each other as I understand it.
"We have a good team spirit and I'm sure that'll continue."
Some fans believe Fuller should no longer wear the City shirt but in a lengthy interview on the club's website, Coates stressed the player still had a key role to play.
"It hasn't entered our heads to sell him, " Coates stressed. "We're absolutely sure we want to keep him. Ric's a good player and you don't sell your good players.
"He's a big player and important player, he helped to get us here (the Premier League), and he'll stay at the club."
Fuller's sending off came on the back of Andy Wilkinson getting a red card against Manchester United on Boxing Day.
Coates claimed Cristiano Ronaldo should have been punished by referee Chris Foy for flicking a boot at the defender, as should Wayne Rooney for throwing an elbow at Abdoulaye Faye.
Coates added: "I'm not excusing Wilkinson but he was aggravated by Ronaldo just before and I think everyone saw that but the referee did nothing.
"Then Rooney puts in a strong elbow right in front of the linesman, and again, nothing.
"Big clubs get favoured treatment from referees but it's happened for a number of years.
"We complain through the official channels and we'll continue to complain."