Eva Carneiro, the Chelsea doctor who was banned from the match-day bench after being criticised by manager Jose Mourinho, has still not returned to work since the controversy erupted.
Her absence, now into its fourth week since the incident on Aug 8 in the opening game of the season at home to Swansea City, has fuelled the growing expectation among some Chelsea staff that Carneiro is unlikely to resume her role.
It could that Carneiro, who has been advised by the law firm Mischon de Reya, is now negotiating her departure as the club’s first-team doctor.
Mourinho’s treatment of Carneiro and first-team physio Jon Fearn, who has continued to work at the club’s Cobham training ground but has not yet resumed his duties in full after also being taken off the bench, is to be discussed by world football governing body Fifa.
Another influential body, the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine has also raised the matter with the League Managers Association, of which Mourinho is a member.
Chelsea insist the issue is an “internal staffing matter” and say they do not intend to comment and although Mourinho has publicly said that Carneiro might be reinstated there increasingly appears to be no way back for her.
Carneiro is understood to have taken legal advice with the possibility that Chelsea might be seeking to re-deploy her within their medical department and away from being first-team doctor. Some lawyers have suggested she may have grounds for constructive dismissal.
Dr Chris Hughes, along with physio Steven Hughes, has sat on the bench for Chelsea’s last three matches. Hughes is Chelsea’s academy doctor, has been at the club for four years and is expected to continue working with the first-team on match days.
It was revealed last month that Carneiro and Fearn had been told they would not sit on the Chelsea bench after infuriating Mourinho when they ran on to the pitch to treat Eden Hazard when he went down injured during the Swansea match.
Mourinho’s anger was picked up by the television cameras and afterwards he accused the pair of failing to “understand the game”.
It subsequently emerged that not only had referee Michael Oliver twice gestured for the medical staff to come on but also that he had also checked with Hazard that he wanted to receive treatment. This led to further criticism of Mourinho from medical professionals.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited, which oversees the referees, will also now discuss the matter to clarify the ‘protocols’ for allowing medical staff on to the pitch. PGMOL has to decide if the guidelines are clear enough.
While keeping her title as club doctor, Carneiro was told she would no longer attend games, training sessions or enter the team hotel. She was expected to return to work after a week but it is understood that has not happened and she has not been seen at Cobham.
After Mourinho’s criticism, Carneiro took to Facebook to post a message thanking well-wishers, which is also understood to have angered the manager.
Carneiro is also Chelsea’s assistant medical director and it had been thought she was being groomed to succeed Paco Biosca when he eventually retired.
Fearn helped prepare the Chelsea players for their following match, at Manchester City, although he did not travel to a the next away game at West Bromwich Albion.
Fifa’s medical committee will discuss the treatment of Carneiro and Fearn at it meeting on Sept 11. The committee is expected to make clear its support of team doctors who act in the best interest of players.