For a variety of legal reasons, Northumbria Police needed to establish whether St James' Park was a public place (yes); whether they required an official complaint from anyone, either participant or witness, before taking action (no); and whether there was a good enough probability of conviction for assault to warrant the time and money involved in pressing a charge (undecided).The guidelines will seek to make such decisions not only easier but standard across the country and across all sports, amateur or professional."As things stand, you are probably more likely to be face prosecution for an incident in a Sunday league game than an identical incident in a professional match," Hayward said. "They're about targeting people who behave criminally, and who, as things stand, get away with it because they do it on the field of play."We don't want a situation where sportsmen are getting away with something on the pitch that they would be prosecuted for if it happened in the high street. For this step back from the barricades - for this flash of sanity - we have to be grateful in a week when all else teetered on the edge of madness.. Footballers and other sportsmen will be more likely to face criminal prosecution for violent or threatening on-field behaviour from this autumn, when the Crown Prosecution Service intends to issue new guidelines to police about which offences to target and how best to secure convictions. It is in the recognition by Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association, that the game occupies a special place in the nation's affairs, one where the laws of employment do have to be balanced against the need to preserve some order and continuity. No one emerges with credit, though Arsenal were plainly most wronged.
When the Chelsea chief executive talks about tweaking rules, and wonders what it was that his club did that was so wrong, he gives us a shocking insight into the thinking of the most powerful men in English football.There has been just one point of redemption. So, if the veterans mourn the fact that much of today's wealth is so cheaply earned, and often with such a dismaying lack of high talent, they cannot bring themselves to regret a single penny paid out by an industry that for so long treated its employees so miserably, and often cruelly.If there is any benefit to be drawn from "Colegate", it is the apparently dawning sense that football cannot exist in any vague resemblance to its past if the regulations of "freedom of trade" are applied across the board. Mannion, Lawton and Stiles represent merely the tip of a mountain of justifiable rage.Why, you may wonder, is it that so many great old players refuse to rail against the greed and the irresponsibility of many of today's players? It is because they remember how it was when the clubs still held their power; when they did indeed treat their players like slaves, however much they were revered in the streets and however superbly they played as they filled the stadiums. Simon Jones turned 27 for 2 into 34 for 3 when he found the outside edge of Mohammad Ashraful's bat to give Geraint Jones his first catch of the day.Andrew Flintoff had Rajin Saleh caught at short-leg and this left Matthew Hoggard, with 149 wickets, as England's only bowler yet to take a wicket. Players like Tommy Lawton, who was soaked when the passing Rolls-Royce of the club chairman drove through a puddle as the great centre-forward stood at a bus stop.
Players like Nobby Stiles, who left Manchester United penniless and with shattered knees after becoming only one of two Englishmen - Sir Bobby Charlton was the other - to win both the European and World Cups.Shear should be more careful with his language. However, the fact that his reaction to a fine of £100,000 was to go on a champagne spree with some of his cabin-mates put into rather nauseating perspective his lawyer's reference to football's master-slave relationships. It wasn't too surprising to see Ashley Cole, the persecuted refugee from football's slave row, lurching out of a nightclub early one morning this week. Shear's comments were nothing so much as a gross insult to all those great players who made the game and the mystique Cole and his mates have inherited so profitably.Players like Wilf Mannion, who helped fill Hampden Park to its rafters when playing for England, then travelled home in the corridor of a third-class rail carriage while sitting on a case made of cardboard. "We've had different formations in training," O'Shea said.Ireland will also have to cope with a tricky, bullish Israeli side whose playmaker, Yossi Benayoun, will be watched tonight by Newcastle United.Another thing Kerr did this week was show his players a printout of the Group Four table It could not be tighter. "I'm happy where I am, the club seem happy with me, so I'm happy to stay."His country is likely to call on his versatility tonight, when O'Shea will win his 23rd cap - but where he plays remains uncertain.With suspension ruling out Stephen Carr and Roy Keane and injury accounting for Finnan, Alan Maybury, Stephen Kelly and Richard Dunne, it seems O'Shea will switch from left to right with Ian Harte recalled.Kerr's other option is to deploy Steven Reid at right-back, as he did in last Sunday's testimonial for Celtic's Jackie McNamara. But I look at the club I'm at and the fact that I'm still playing is very positive."There has been mitigation "I had bad luck here and there I had a good run at right-back but got injured," he said.