Police have been forced to launch new inquiries into the confrontation between Eden Hazard and a Swansea ballboy, with the Football Association also reviewing new video evidence before deciding whether to extend the Chelsea forward’s ban.
Hazard was sent off when he appeared to kick Charlie Morgan as the Belgian tried to retrieve the ball in a frustrated attempt to get play restarted following a goal-kick during Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.
Morgan seemed to have made a deliberate attempt to time-waste for Swansea by blocking Hazard and lying on the ball. The 17-year-old ballboy, who is the son of Swansea director and part-owner Martin Morgan, then complained to the referee and clutched his ribs as he left the pitch. Police confirmed last night that they had received calls from members of the public that they will investigate.
“South Wales Police has received a number of calls following an incident involving a ballboy at the Capital One Cup semi-final,” a spokesman said. “Three calls have been received from members of the public living in Sussex, Kent and West Wales which are being followed up.
“Officers have interviewed the ballboy concerned in the presence of his father and he does not wish to make any formal complaint. The boy did not sustain any injuries.”
Formal charges, then, would appear highly unlikely but Hazard is still facing the prospect of an extended FA ban. Referee Chris Foy’s decision to send off Hazard means that he will receive an automatic three-match suspension but the FA’s governance and disciplinary department is still deciding whether that punishment is too lenient.
It has the power to increase any ban deemed “insufficient” and, having received the television footage, it spent yesterday reviewing all the evidence, including Foy’s report. A new video of the incident emerged on the internet last night in which Hazard clearly made contact with the ball as he tried to get play restarted.
Hazard has apologised for his actions and spoke to Morgan in the dressing room after the game. The Belgian believes that he kicked the ball rather than Morgan. but they shook hands and apologised to each other for their part in the embarrassing incident.
Chelsea are not planning to appeal against Hazard’s three-game ban but could challenge any increase to it. If that happened, an independent regulatory commission of the FA would consider the incident. A decision is expected from the FA today.
“You can’t take the law into your own hands – he lost his head and had to receive a punishment,” said Gordon Taylor, the chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
There was also widespread condemnation for Morgan’s part in provoking the incident, although the FA will not take any action against Michael Laudrup after the Swansea manager denied that ballboys were instructed to waste time on Wednesday night as his team preserved their 2-0 first-leg lead.
Morgan, though, did suggest on Twitter before the game that he would time-waste.
The FA regard issues of time-wasting as a matter for the referees to manage during a match. Officials can take action against players for time-wasting and can add as much time as they deem necessary.
Referees, however, have previously been made aware of the way teams sometimes use ballboys to their advantage. A multi-ball system that allowed ballboys to speed up or slow down the game has been dropped.
Morgan was acting as a ballboy on Wednesday only because as the weather conditions had prevented a colleague from travelling to the Liberty Stadium. Morgan took to Twitter before the match to boast that the “king of ballboys” was making his final appearance. He then added the #needed #for #timewasting.
Swansea do not intend to take any action against him. No decision has been made over whether he will serve as a ballboy for the club again. “There was no agenda,” Leigh Dineen, Swansea’s vice-chairman, said. “We don’t line up the ballboys and ask them to waste time.”
Jeremy Wilson, Telegraph.co.uk