LONDON: Referee Mark Clattenburg has been cleared by the Football Association of Chelsea’s accusation that he used racially offensive language to Jon Obi Mikel during the stormy defeat by Manchester United last month writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

That decision left the FA stage clear for the disciplinary body to charge Mikel himelf over his behaviour towards the match officials after the match.

Clattenburg, 37, had been accused by Chelsea of saying: “Shut up you monkey,” to Mikel. Chelsea have accepted the decision but refused to issue an apology on the basis that the complaint by Mikel’s team-mate Ramires had been  “made in good faith”.

The FIFA referee later described the last few weeks, during which he has not been appointed to any games, as  “the most stressful of my life.”

He said: “To know you were innocent of something but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was truly frightening. Racism has no place in football and this experience should not discourage those to speak out if they genuinely believe they are a victim of abuse.

“However, there are processes that should be adhered to in order that any investigation can be carried out in a manner that is fair for all parties involved. 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.

“I am looking forward to putting this behind me and concentrating on refereeing in the Premier League and other competitions.”

Mikel was charged fromally with using threatening words or behaviour – an alleged breach of FA Rule E3 – after going into the referees’ changing room after the 3-2 defeat by United at Stamford Bridge on October 28.

A Chelsea statement read: “The FA states Chelsea took the correct action following the Manchester United match and encourages all players who believe they have been either subject, or witness to discriminatory abuse, to report the matter immediately to the match officials on the day, and in turn to the FA.

“The club also notes the charge brought against John Mikel Obi. While the player does not deny the charge, he will request a personal hearing to explain the mitigating circumstances. With regards to the Mark Clattenburg decision, the club accepts the case is now concluded and notes the FA states the allegation was made in good faith.”

The FA’s decision came after all the evidence was considered by independent QC David Waters, who ruled Ramires’ claim was not supported by any other evidence and disputed by the other match officials.

An FA statement added: “Moreover it was contradicted by other witnesses and does not cross the evidential threshold required to bring a charge against Mark Clattenburg. Having considered Counsel’s opinion, and in view of all the circumstances of the case, the FA does not believe that there is a case for Mr Clattenburg to answer.”

The episode has caused the Premier League to seek to record all match officials’ conversations during games in the future.

Referees chief Mike Riley, general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), said: “The verbal and visual facts do not support any of the allegations made against him. They make it clear that Mark did not use any inappropriate language towards any Chelsea player.

“Regrettably, Mark has had to endure four weeks that have brought massive disruption to his professional and personal life through no fault of his own. We are all relieved that this is now behind him and that he can return to doing something that he loves.

“To reduce the risk of an episode of this nature being repeated, PGMOL will introduce recording of the referees’ communication system on a private basis.”

The FA’s decision came an hour before Chelsea’s new interim manager Rafael Benitez gave his first press conference at the club, with the former Liverpool boss insisting he had “just arrived and I want to concentrate on football issues”.

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