Referee Clattenburg Cleared of Racist Remark in Chelsea Game

England’s Football Association cleared referee Mark Clattenburg of making a racist remark to Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel during the match against Manchester United last month.

Following today’s decision, the F.A. charged Mikel with misconduct for threatening and insulting behavior near the match officials’ changing room at the end of the Oct. 28 game. The ruling body announced both rulings on its website.

The decisions come after the Metropolitan Police on Nov. 13 dropped a probe into the allegation against Clattenburg. It started to look at the alleged incident after a complaint by the Society of Black Lawyers, which called for an inquiry into whether a criminal offense had been committed.

The F.A. said Chelsea complained after Brazilian midfielder Ramires alleged he heard Clattenburg say “Shut up, you monkey” to Nigerian Mikel during the 3-2 home defeat to United. Clattenburg, 37, hasn’t refereed a match since the incident and denied Chelsea’s allegation he used “inappropriate language.” Mikel didn’t hear the alleged words.

“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,” the F.A. said in a statement on its website. “Moreover it was contradicted by other witnesses and does not cross the evidential threshold required to bring a charge against Mark Clattenburg.”

While clearing Clattenburg, the F.A. said it believed Ramires had acted “in good faith.”

Terry Controversy

“It is entirely possible for a witness to be genuinely mistaken and convincing in his belief,” the governing body said.

The case started shortly after Chelsea captain John Terry was banned for four games by the F.A. following an investigation into claims he’d racially abused Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a game last season. Terry’s case, which included a criminal trial in which the player was cleared, hurt Chelsea’s reputation and overshadowed its first-ever Champions League win in May.

“All allegations are properly investigated,” the F.A. said. “It is not uncommon for investigations to lead to no disciplinary charge being brought.”

Mikel has until Nov. 30 to respond to the misconduct charge against him.

“While the player does not deny the charge, he will request a personal hearing to explain the mitigating circumstances,” Chelsea said today on its website.

‘Duty of Care’

The club’s Chief Executive Officer Ron Gourlay said in an interview earlier this month his team had a “duty of care” to Mikel as an employee to report the allegation after speaking with him, investigating the incident and consulting external legal professionals.

Clattenburg sent off Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic for tripping Ashley Young and then gave Fernando Torres a second yellow for diving. United won when Javier Hernandez scored in the 75th minute from what television replays showed may have been an offside position. Mikel was booked after the third United goal.

“I am looking forward to putting this behind me and concentrating on refereeing in the Premier League and other competitions,” Clattenburg said in an e-mailed statement. “To know you were innocent of something but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was truly frightening.”

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