Clattenburg to fight Chelsea allegations as FA launch inquiry
THE new race row engulfing English football intensified yesterday as Chelsea players prepared to give evidence against referee Mark Clattenburg who, according to one leading official, "said nothing" and intends to "fight this all the way".
England's elite referees met in London and are understood to be passionate and united in their defence of Clattenburg.
Earlier, the English Football Association launched a formal investigation into the allegation that Clattenburg used "inappropriate language" of a racial nature to John Obi Mikel during Chelsea's 3-2 defeat by Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, who have also complained that Juan Mata was subjected to inappropriate language from Clattenburg, have conducted interviews and taken statements from players.
Sources claimed last night that "three or four Chelsea players", believed to include Ramires, are ready to act as witnesses in support of the complaint.
Clattenburg, though, is said to be adamant that he did nothing wrong and is ready to defend himself against the allegations which, if proved, would clearly be career-threatening.
"Mark has said nothing," said one leading official. "He intends to fight this all the way."
The FA have already announced their investigation and will now trawl all available footage, including video cameras in around 20 different positions in the ground.
The alleged flashpoint is understood to have occurred when Clattenburg booked Mikel for dissent after Manchester United's winning goal.
The FA team will also seek testimony from anyone who might have seen or heard what happened. Other witnesses who are likely to be central to the case include Clattenburg's two assistants, Michael McDonough and Simon Long, and fourth official Michael Jones. All officials have microphones during games which allow them to speak freely to one another, meaning that they should have been able to hear everything Clattenburg said to the players. Fifa guidelines, however, mean that conversations are not recorded.
"If he is guilty, if he said those words, this will come out," said Graham Poll, a former Premier League referee. "There is no hiding place, it is not one of those you can mask. Assistant referees, if they have heard Mark Clattenburg make inappropriate comments, will report it."
Clattenburg was yesterday stood down from the next round of this weekend's Premier League.
It is unclear how long the FA's investigation will take, but the referees' body, PGMO, will continue to consider Clattenburg for matches while the process continues.
Clattenburg was photographed leaving his home, near Newcastle, yesterday with fellow referee Michael Oliver, and there is understood to have been considerable support yesterday from the elite refereeing community.
A statement from PGMO has outlined Clattenburg's willingness to co-operate with the process and how he "welcomes the opportunity for the facts to be established".
Chelsea announced their intention to make a complaint around two hours after Sunday's match against Manchester United, with the situation discussed at length inside the dressing-room following the 3-2 defeat.
The severity of the accusation was made clear to Mikel and Mata, but after discussions which are understood to have involved manager Roberto di Matteo and chief executive Ron Gourlay, it was decided that a complaint should be passed on to match delegate Nick Cusack.
Chelsea are still reeling from separate FA and criminal investigations into allegations that their captain John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand and, according to several sources, the decision to complain about Clattenburg was not taken lightly.
Cusack duly forwarded Chelsea's allegations to the FA yesterday morning, with Clattenburg then submitting his own report. Di Matteo confirmed that he had spoken directly with Clattenburg after the game, and it is understood that Mikel also challenged him.
Conversations in the tunnel or referee's room can form part of Clattenburg's report. (© Daily Telegraph, London)