Clattenburg is cleared of racial abuse and urged to sue Chelsea
FA finds referee has no case to answer over Mikel smear – but where is Chelsea's apology?
THE reputation of Chelsea football club was dealt another body blow on Thursday when the FA cleared referee Mark Clattenburg of racially abusing John Obi Mikel.
Allegations against the 37-year-old referee surfaced during the Blues 3-2 home defeat to Manchester United last month. Clattenburg, who dismissed two Chelsea players in the fiery encounter, was initially accused by the club of calling Mikel a "monkey" and Juan Mata "a Spanish twat". The club soon dropped the accusation concerning Mata, but continued to insist Clattenburg had racially abused Mikel.
The claims, coming days after Chelsea captain John Terry had been banned for four matches by the FA for racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand, were met with widespread astonishment in the football world. From the outset Clattenburg vigorously denied the allegations.
Now, after a three-week investigation, the FA have found Clattenburg has no case to answer and he could be back officiating as early as next Tuesday.
The only evidence against Clattenburg was that of Brazilian midfielder, Ramires. He insisted he heard Clattenburg order Mikel to "Shut up, you monkey" in the aftermath of Fernando Torres's red card.
In a statement, the FA said it was "satisfied" that Ramires's allegation was "made in good faith… it is possible for a witness to be genuinely mistaken and convincing in his belief."
However it then added: "Having considered all of the available evidence it was the opinion of David Waters QC, independent counsel, that the evidence of Ramires was not supported by any other evidence. Moreover it was contradicted by other witnesses and does not cross the evidential threshold required to bring a charge against Mark Clattenburg."
It's believed Ramires may have been confused by Clattenburg's north-east accent and mistaken his pronunciation of 'Mikel' for 'Monkey'.
Despite a sense of relief at being exonerated by the FA, Clattenburg remains angry with Chelsea for the cack-handed way they went about the incident.
"To know you were innocent of something but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was truly frightening," he said. "I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future."
Not surprisingly, given the way they treat their managers, Chelsea were unable to summon up an apology for Clattenburg in the wake of the FA's findings. In a brief statement the club said it "accepts the Football Association's decision regarding Mark Clattenburg and welcomes the fact that the FA recognises the club and players were correct in reporting the matter".
That might not be the end of the matter, however, with the Daily Mirror reporting that Clattenburg is being urged to sue Chelsea for defamation of character. In an interview with the paper, Alan Leighton of the referees' union Prospect said: "We are seeking a full apology and compensation for loss of earnings, damage to reputation and stress."
The FA's announcement also calls into question the judgment of Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL), who turned the case into a personal crusade. Less than 48 hours after the match he called in the Metropolitan Police to investigate Clattenburg and when they found no evidence of wrongdoing, he accused the FA of being "institutionally racist".
It never occurred to him that Chelsea could just be institutionally stupid.