LONDON, England, October 30- The Football Association has begun an investigation into Mikel John Obi’s allegation that he was racially insulted by the referee Mark Clattenburg in Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat by Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The Metropolitan Police may also open an inquiry after receiving an official complaint.
The Society of Black Lawyers has written to the Met to ask it to “see if a racially-aggravated offence has occurred”. That development came as details emerged of the chaos and anxiety in the home dressing room after Sunday’s full-time whistle.
Senior Chelsea players spoke to Mikel, the Nigeria midfielder, and asked him if he was absolutely certain that he had heard Clattenburg correctly in the flashpoint that followed Javier Hernández’s controversial winning goal for United, when Mikel was booked for dissent.
It was even discussed whether there might have been a misunderstanding that related to Clattenburg’s north-east accent.
Everybody at Chelsea is acutely sensitive to the severity of the allegation, particularly in the wake of the club captain John Terry’s four-match FA suspension for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand last October.
With tensions running high, Mikel was adamant that he had been wronged and it is understood that three or four of his team-mates were ready to support him; the Brazil midfielder Ramires is one of them.
Juan Mata, the Spain midfielder, also felt that Clattenburg had directed offensive language towards him and it is a key aspect of Chelsea’s grievance that the referee is accused of using “inappropriate” language on separate occasions to different players.
Clattenburg, who has yet to comment on the allegations but is said by the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) to welcome “the opportunity for the facts to be established”, has been stood down from taking charge of a game this weekend.
Roberto Di Matteo, the Chelsea manager, emerged late for his post-match press conference as he had been to see Clattenburg, as did Mikel, to confront him over the allegations.
The Chelsea squad remained at the stadium for two hours after full time while the club carried out an investigation to establish the facts before they made their formal complaint to the football authorities at 8pm.
The FA, conscious of the 12 months that it took it to reach a verdict over Terry, although that was delayed by his criminal prosecution, is determined to act as quickly as possible this time while maintaining its thoroughness. It will schedule interviews with Mikel, Mata, Clattenburg, his assistants and the fourth official, together with anybody else that it deems necessary, but it is likely that the investigation will take weeks rather than days.
Chelsea continued their work into affair at their Cobham training ground on Monday when they took witness statements from players and staff that they will submit to the FA.
Clattenburg has heard support from the referees’ union, Prospect, and the PGMO, even though the latter has taken the decision to rest him in light of the furore.
“PGMO believe that with any football match,” it said, “the focus should not be on the officials but on the players and the game itself. Mark Clattenburg is one of the elite referees in world football and, in these circumstances, the intense level of scrutiny would detract from the match and be unfair to the club and the supporters of both sides.”
Clattenburg fed his match details from Stamford Bridge into the FA’s database as usual, including the relevant codes for the bookings and dismissals, but he needed to write a report to cover the game’s extraordinary incidents. The Premier League’s match delegate also filed to the FA.
Clattenburg was wearing a microphone and each member of his officiating team would have been able to hear what he said throughout the 90 minutes.
The former World Cup referee Graham Poll said that if Clattenburg had been out of line with his language, he would be brought to book.
“Assistant referees … if they heard Mark Clattenburg made inappropriate comments, they will report it,” Poll said.
Separately, the Metropolitan Police said it was “investigating the incident in which the match-day steward was injured” in the crowd melee that followed Hernández’s goal.
The FA has opened a separate investigation into the trouble that flared after the decisive goal, when coins and other missiles were thrown from the stands, including part of a plastic seat that had been ripped up.
The United midfielder Michael Carrick picked it up and brought it to Clattenburg’s notice.
The FA knows that it is impossible to stop supporters from entering a stadium with coins but it also acknowledged the other things that were thrown down. Chelsea face censure.
– The Guardian