Everton manager David Moyes was found guilty of improper conduct by the Football Association and warned over his future conduct at a London hearing yesterday following remarks made after the Merseyside derby with Liverpool last October that ended with the Toffees reduced to nine men.
Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville were sent off and Everton also claimed they should have had a late penalty for a foul on Joleon Lescott by Jamie Carragher. Moyes was heavily critical of referee Mark Clattenburg and also suggested Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was implicated in the red card for Hibbert, saying after the match: "The referee pulled out a yellow card and then the Liverpool captain has a word with him and it becomes a red."
Moyes made comments in the after-match media conference, and then again in the build-up to the next match against Larissa in the Uefa Cup the following week. Moyes was also disappointed with an exchange he had with Clattenburg after the derby which Liverpool won with two penalties from Dirk Kuyt.
A statement from the FA's regulatory commission said: "Having considered all of the evidence and submissions, the commission concluded that the comments would reasonably be interpreted as calling into question the referee's integrity and implying that he was motivated by bias.
"The commission recognised the charged atmosphere of the game and the frustration that Mr Moyes was feeling.
"It also took into account his exemplary disciplinary record. However, the commission also stated that it is very important for managers to exercise great care in making comments about referees as they set an example for others."
Everton are hoping to tie up the permanent transfer of Steven Pienaar by the end of the week. As the Merseysiders battle to hold on to fifth place – and Uefa Cup qualification – in the Premier League, Moyes is already planning for next season.
Last week, Pienaar voiced his concerns that a deal between his parent club Borussia Dortmund and Everton to make his season-long loan a permanent move had fallen through.
But on Friday, Moyes suggested the deal had never been in doubt and the hold-up was "regarding his agent's fee". An Everton spokesman yesterday revealed final details were being thrashed out and chief executive Keith Wyness is working on the completion of the £2.2m move.
The spokesman said: "The deal has been in place for some time and the final points are now being worked on. It should be sorted out before the end of the week."
It could even be in place by the time Everton face title-chasing Chelsea at Goodison Park on Thursday. That match will have a huge bearing on the conclusion to both clubs' seasons. Chelsea can still catch leaders Manchester United, while Everton desperately need the three points to maintain their own push for European qualification.
Their draw at Birmingham on Saturday, and fourth-placed Liverpool's win over Blackburn yesterday, virtually ends the battle for fourth place with Liverpool now five points clear of Everton with only four games to go.
Their goal difference is also superior, and Everton are now concerning themselves with maintaining fifth place with Portsmouth and Aston Villa closing on them. And Everton know they will need to show an improvement in their current form to secure fifth.
Joleon Lescott, who scored his ninth goal of the season in the draw at Birmingham, believes Everton must rediscover their mid-season form quickly.
Since they were knocked out of the Uefa Cup on penalties by Fiorentina last month, they have taken only five points from five games. Prior to the two legs against the Italians, the Toffees were unbeaten in eight league games and had amassed 20 points from a possible 24. Lescott said: "We know it is going to be tough but if you had told us in August that we would be in contention for fourth place with four games to go, we would have taken that.
"We have got to take the positives and remember that we have made progress again this year. Last season we finished sixth but already we have got more points than then.
"Now we want to make sure that we finish no lower than fifth. We believe that we are improving all the time. But the way we played earlier in the season is not going to guarantee anything for us, we have to produce that [form] now. We have still got a lot of hard work to do. There are some hard games still to go and we have got to work exceptionally hard to get that place in Europe. But we believe we can do it, if the boys keep doing what they have been, we will be fine."