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Sep 28, 2009

FA right to come down hard on West Ham and Millwall

West Ham United and Millwall must face the severest consequences following the crowd trouble that scared their Carling Cup tie a month ago.

It has been my view that both clubs should be hit with a string of charges, and that is about time that the Football Association drew a line in the sand to make an example of any clubs whose fans betray the good name of English football around the world.

And that is precisely what the FA have done. So, congratulations to the FA for taking the first steps to ensure the cancer of football in the 70s and 80s does not return. Let's hope that the Commission which will sit in judgement thinks the same way and hands out punishments that fit the crime.

Both clubs will have high powered QCs fighting their corner. There will be pleas of mitigation, the usual legal nuisances to minimise the punishment. But this is about protecting the global image of the entire sport. The Commission needs to have the guts to withstand the legal pressures.

Of course, it is tough on the genuine fans of both the London clubs. I feel for them. They are the innocents dragged into the mire by a tiny minority intent on trouble rather than interested in the sport. They are the mad few who are glorified by the increasing volume of books and TV documentaries making heroes of football hooligans. The publishers and TV companies should be ashamed to be party to such lurid content.

The Government should intervene to ban them. It's amazing that the Government spends so much time criticising the way the FA are organised, but fails to recognise one of the biggest diseases to inflict the national sport and pinpoint how best to eradicate it.

But the wider public will no longer stand for the old fashioned wishy-washy slapped-wrist sentences of the past. It's time for firm and decisive action to combat the evil infiltration of the national sport.

I am convinced that the FA, under relatively new FA chairman Lord Triesman and chief executive Ian Watmore, responsible for on and off-field disciplines and morals of the game, will make a stand against hooliganism. Most believe that hooliganism has not returned, but the FA need to ensure that it does not.

FA sources informed ESPN Soccernet last week that the organisation's governance compliance team viewed footage from 47 CCTV cameras and sifted through all the relevant paper work in a meticulous fashion to ensure that any charges brought will stick when it comes to a semi-independent FA Commission. It smacked of the FA being horrified by events that occurred inside and outside of Upon Park. Quite rightly so.

As well as fines, West Ham face having their Upton Park ground closed for one match, at least. Both clubs are sure to receive suspended sentences of the severest kind, which might even include the docking of points if any such crowd disturbances are repeated. Also being considered is a ban from the Carling Cup for a minimum of one season, possibly longer, if there is any repeat.

The FA are in determined mood to send out the right message and to bring into effect punishments that will act as a deterrent.

With the FA's 2018 World Cup bid at stake, the game's governing body has no intention of failing to make a stand against violence and hooliganism. Fine by me. There might be some who will wince and protest if the punishments are severe. You won't find me among them.

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