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London Police Probe Alleged Comments by Chelsea-United Referee

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Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- London police started an investigation into alleged comments by soccer referee Mark Clattenburg at the Chelsea-Manchester United match two days ago.

English soccer’s ruling body has already started its own probe into Chelsea’s allegation that Clattenburg, 37, made “inappropriate” comments to two of its players. He’s accused of racially abusing Chelsea's Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, the Daily Mail reported. He denies making inappropriate remarks to Mikel and Spain’s Juan Mata and is supported by his assistants at the game, the newspaper added.

The police involvement follows a complaint by the Society of Black Lawyers, which called for an inquiry into whether a criminal offense had been committed.

The police probe “follows on from a complaint received by the Metropolitan Police Service on Oct. 29,” the police said in a statement on its website today. “Officers from Hammersmith & Fulham borough are in liaison with Chelsea Football Club and the Football Association. At this time, the Metropolitan Police Service has not received any complaint from either Chelsea Football Club or the Football Association.”

Chelsea’s complaint to the soccer authorities followed the 3-2 Premier League home defeat against United, during which the referee red-carded Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres, and allowed a winning goal that Blues manager Roberto di Matteo said was offside. Clattenburg also yellow-carded Mikel for dissent as United closed to within a point of league leader Chelsea.

The Professional Game Match Officials, a body that manages referees, has said the allegations were “being treated with the utmost seriousness” and that Clattenburg “will cooperate fully and welcomes the opportunity for the facts to be established.”

Terry Case

The PGMO yesterday said Clattenburg won’t officiate a match next weekend, adding that “with any football match the focus should not be on the officials but on the players and the game itself.”

Prospect, a union which represents the referees, has said it’s offering full support to Clattenburg in relation to the allegations made against him.

The complaints against Clattenburg follow a series of race-linked controversies affecting Chelsea and English soccer.

The case has parallels with the one involving Chelsea captain John Terry, in that soccer authorities and police became involved in separate processes.

In July, Terry was found not guilty in a criminal case linked to alleged racial abuse of Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in a game last October. On Sept. 27 he was banned by the F.A. for four games over the same incident, missing the United game because of that suspension.

The soccer disciplinary proceedings against Terry were delayed until after the criminal case had taken its course.

Some players in the English game then refused to wear anti-racism T-shirts in a protest against what they saw as ineffective action to combat racist conduct.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter-Joseph Hegarty in London at phegarty@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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