The Football Association was last night still considering whether to charge Didier Drogba with violent conduct after he threw a coin back into the crowd during Chelsea's Carling Cup defeat to Burnley. An announcement was expected around 5pm but with the Metropolitan Police also investigating the striker's actions, the FA delayed their decision.
If charged Drogba could face a three-match ban. The 30-year-old issued an immediate apology, and Chelsea will hope that this will be taken into consideration and that the striker simply escapes with a warning over his future conduct.
The FA spent yesterday studying video footage of what happened at Stamford Bridge after Drogba had put Chelsea ahead. He was struck by a coin thrown by a Burnley supporter and made an obscene gesture before tossing the coin back into the crowd. Referee Keith Stroud submitted his report to the FA and confirmed that he had cautioned Drogba for the gesture and not for the coin throwing incident which the official had not seen. Because he did not take action it opens the way for the FA to proceed with a charge of either violent conduct or misconduct.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said yesterday: "I can confirm we are investigating the incident. No-one has been arrested." There have been no reports of anyone being injured by Drogba's actions and Burnley have also promised to investigate. If the supporter who initially threw the coin can be identified he will receive a life-ban. After the incident Drogba said: "This is something I want to make clear. I tried to celebrate the goal and I received some things at me. The big mistake I did was to throw it back so if someone was hurt, I just want to apologise for it. This is not something I should show in a football match and I want to apologise. It was an incident in the heat of the moment and I regret it." It was part of a miserable night for Chelsea, who suffered a surprise exit from the competition.
In 2002, Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher was sent off in an FA Cup tie against Arsenal at Highbury after throwing a coin back into the crowd. He received a mandatory three-match ban. He was also interviewed by police but no further action was taken. However, Carragher was fined by the club and warned as to his future conduct.
Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, says a similar punishment should be handed out to Drogba. "It's there for all to see, he's done something that's against the rules required of players, and a similar situation resulted in a three-match ban for Carragher," he said. "So it would be very difficult to avoid an accusation that they (the FA) are inconsistent if they don't follow that line."
Chelsea will not take any action against the player until they have examined what the FA and police want to do. However, the incident is a significant set-back for Drogba who has struggled for fitness this season having appeared keen to leave Chelsea during the last campaign.