THE Football Association will take no action against Mark Clattenburg following Chelsea's allegations that he racially abused John Obi Mikel.
Clattenburg was accused of using "inappropriate language" by Chelsea after the fractious 3-2 defeat against Manchester United. Specifically, Chelsea's evidence to the FA alleged that Clattenburg said to Mikel "shut up you, monkey".
The FA's judgment reveals that midfielder Ramires was Chelsea's only witness. Mikel himself did not hear the alleged insult, there was no video evidence to support the claim, and Clattenburg's fellow officials - who are all connected via earpieces and microphones - denied hearing the alleged insult.
An FA statement read: "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.
"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."
Chelsea are holding a press conference this afternoon, at 5.30pm, to unveil new manager Rafael Benítez, an event which now risks being overshadowed by the criticism which is bound to be aimed at Chelsea.
The FA have also charged Mikel with misconduct over the heated exchanges which followed the United game, when a Chelsea delegation entered the referee's changing room.
"Mikel has been charged ... for an alleged breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to his side’s game against Manchester United," read an FA statement.
"It is alleged that in or around the Match Officials’ changing room at the end of the fixture, Mikel used threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour". Mikel has until Friday Nov 30 to respond.
Speaking of his relief, Clattenburg 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 in order that any investigation can be carried out in a manner that is fair for all parties involved."
It is understood that Clattenburg is now consulting his lawyers over the possibility of taking legal action against Chelsea.
"I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation," he said. "I hope no referee has to go through this in the future."
Chelsea have accepted the FA's decision, adding in a statement: "Chelsea FC has a duty of care, as do all employers, to act responsibly when such allegations are reported by employees.
"We did not take the decision to lodge a formal complaint with the FA lightly and followed the correct processes and protocols throughout. The club carried out a thorough investigation, led by outside legal counsel, using all information available to us. As the FA makes clear, it is not uncommon for investigations to lead to no disciplinary charge being brought."
Last week, the Metropolitan Police dropped its own investigation into the Clattenburg allegations.
“Inquiries were made and no victims have come forward. The matter will remain as a recorded incident. Without a victim and/or any evidence that any offence has been committed, the matter cannot currently be investigated.
"If the situation changes and a victim and/or evidence to support an allegation of a crime comes to police attention, then further inquiries will, if appropriate, be made.”
The police investigation was launched after the incident was reported to them by the Society of Black Lawyers. Its chairman, Peter Herbert, accused the FA of "institutional racism" over its failure to refer the allegations against Clattenburg to the police.
The FA's investigation found the following:
"The evidence for the allegation came from one witness, Ramires. Ramires, whose first language is not English, explained that his instinctive reaction was to seek confirmation from John Obi Mikel as to what the referee had said.
"John Obi Mikel, who was being spoken to by the referee, was much closer to the referee than Ramires and did not hear what it is suggested was said to him.
"Three other witnesses, i.e. the other Match Officials, to whom everything said by referee was relayed via their communication equipment, are adamant the alleged words were not uttered.
"There is nothing in the video footage to support the allegation.
"For completeness, but of lesser weight, two other players, whose first language is English and were in the vicinity, did not hear anything untoward."