Aston Villa have fined Richard Dunne and James Collins the maximum two weeks' wages for their part in the drink-fuelled fracas that took place during a team-bonding exercise in Leicestershire last week.
Both players have accepted the club's disciplinary action, although Villa had tried to impose much heavier fines only to be prevented from doing so after the Professional Footballers' Association became involved.
Villa questioned Dunne and Collins on Tuesday, as part of an internal investigation chaired by Robin Russell, the chief finance officer, and informed the players 48 hours later that their behaviour at Champneys Springs spa would cost them a total of £200,000 between them. Their pay packets would have been lighter still had Villa got their way but clubs can fine players more than two weeks' wages only in consultation with the PFA. On this occasion the players' union felt a stiffer punishment was not appropriate.
It is understood that Dunne and Collins are aggrieved Villa have not taken disciplinary action against any of the backroom staff involved in the heated argument that broke out after the manager, Gérard Houllier, left the premises to attend the Champions League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Milan.
The duo, however, begrudgingly accepted their fines after coming to the conclusion they would do themselves more harm than good if they appealed and tried to fight the punishment.
Houllier was keen to try to draw a line under the episode. "Richard Dunne and James Collins have been disciplined and as far as I'm concerned this is the end of the matter," he said. "The club have dealt with the incident strongly, quickly but now we move on to the main target which is Wolverhampton [on Saturday]."
Remarkably Houllier claimed that the row last week, which is the latest in a long line of off-field problems he has had to deal with since he took over at Villa Park in September, did no damage to team morale. "I don't think so because first of all the players have quickly apologised privately and publicly," he said. "Also it didn't affect the team-bonding exercise. It happened when people had gone to bed. All I can tell you is what we did in two days; the players enjoyed it. It was great team-bonding activity. It was just unfortunate that the incident happened."
Houllier said he "doesn't take anything personal" and claimed that Dunne and Collins, who are injured and will miss the Wolves game, still have a part to play at the club. "I've got a long capacity for forgiveness, which is very useful in football. I trust players, I trust people. I think I can be tough but I'm a nice man. I don't bully, I don't shout. [But] trust is always two-way."
The Frenchman also defended his decision to leave the spa premises, along with his assistant, Gary McAllister, to go to the Spurs match. "When they came to the meal we said we would leave the players together with other members of staff. I know from experience that sometimes players like to be on their own but I don't regret what we set up. Even the following day went well, the therapy and the massage."
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