West Brom's Rodgriguez cleared after racism charge 'not proven'
Jay Rodriguez has been cleared of racially abusing Brighton defender Gaetan Bong, with Mauricio Pochettino and Eddie Howe providing character references for the West Brom striker.
Rodriguez will avoid a five-match ban after the English Football Association (FA) found the charge to be 'not proven', in the wake of a 12-week investigation and a hearing.
The 28-year-old was charged in February with using allegedly racist language towards Bong after a confrontation during a Premier League game at The Hawthorns, but the £12m signing had always denied the allegation.
Rodriguez attended his hearing at Wembley on Wednesday, with former West Brom coach Alan Pardew also present, and the verdict was reached yesterday.
Pochettino and Howe were former managers at Southampton and Burnley respectively and formed part of Rodriguez's defence, along with ex-Southampton team-mate Adam Lallana.
Bong, the Cameroon international, alleged Rodriguez said "you're black and you stink" during a row between the two. However, Rodriguez insisted he had said "your breath stinks" after he was seen pinching his nose.
Richard Garlick, West Brom's director of football administration, said: "Everyone is delighted for Jay."
The FA said it was "completely satisfied" Bong's complaint was "made in absolute good faith".