Chelsea vs Clattenburg: one of them must pay for race row
Latest allegations are 'too depressing for words' as football heads back to the gutter
THE MARK CLATTENBURG race row threatens to drag English football back into the gutter just as it was dusting itself off after the indignities heaped upon it by the John Terry affair, which took a year to resolve.
"Regardless of the outcome of the FA's investigation - whether or not Mikel's allegation against Clattenburg is proven, whether the abuse was genuine or something that was misheard - this is terrible for English football," writes Oliver Kay in The Times. "The idea, or even the mere allegation, that a referee could utter a racially abusive term is too depressing for words."
James Lawton in The Independent agrees. "If you have the energy, or the patience, or you still care enough, you might want to weep at this latest evidence of a game too rich for its own good locked into another bout of witless self-destruction."
The allegations take "the national game straight back to square one after all that carefully confected, if somewhat lacklustre, kissing and making up" after the fallout from the insults Terry hurled at Anton Ferdinand.
But Chelsea had little choice but to act once Obi Jon Mikel declared that Clattenburg had called him a "monkey", says Henry Winter in The Daily Telegraph.
"It is in nobody's interests for the sport's latest racial controversy to drag on as Chelsea managed with the John Terry affair. Inevitably there will be scepticism about Chelsea's motives... yet, in fairness, they must respond to any expressed grievances by their players.
"For all the widespread perception of Chelsea as a club without class off the pitch... any allegation of racism needs airing."
And whatever happened there will be payback argues Paul Hayward, also in the Telegraph. "If Chelsea have concocted these charges, they are the Kremlin of English football and should be vilified. If Clattenburg said anything racial or even nationality-based, he is finished."
Matthew Syed in The Times agrees. "The very idea of a top club concocting an allegation of such seriousness because of an elevated sense of injustice almost defies credulity," he says. "Then there is the most incredible possibility of all: that Clattenburg is guilty as accused. The consequences for Clattenburg would be obvious: he would never referee a football game again, and would leave with his reputation in tatters."