The race issue exploded again in English football last night when Chelsea made an official complaint about referee Mark Clattenburg who is alleged to have made a comment of a racial nature to John Obi Mikel following the club’s controversial defeat 3-2 to Manchester United yesterday.
The club said in a statement that Clattenburg used “ inappropriate language” towards two of their players in separate incidents during the game. Although early reports said that the players in question were both black it is understood that one was Mikel and the other was a white player who was allegedly the subject of another inappropriate comment that time of a non-racial kind.
The complaint was made to the Premier League match delegate at Stamford Bridge who is duty bound to pass it on to the Football Association today in his report. Clattenburg attracted criticism from Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo after the game for two crucial decisions. He dismissed Fernando Torres for a second yellow card awarded for what was judged by the referee as a dive and permitted Javier Hernandez’s clear offside goal to stand.
Crucially all Clattenburg’s conversations during the game would have been audible to his two assistants Michael McDonough and Simon Long as well as the fourth official Michael Jones, who are all connected by audio headsets. There is no black box equivalent which records those exchanges. The evidence of those three men will be vital should, as seems inevitable, the incident be investigated by the FA.
Roberto Di Matteo, who was critical of Clattenburg’s decisions, is understood to have visited him after the game. Mikel, whose identity as the player involved in the incident has not been officially confirmed, is also understood to have visited the referee’s room after the game to see Clattenburg.
In a statement, Chelsea spokesman Steve Atkins said yesterday: “ We have lodged a complaint to the Premier League match delegate with regards to inappropriate language used by the referee and directed at two of our players in two separate incidents in today’s match.”
Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO), which is the organisation responsible for the administration and development of Premier League referees, said in a statement last night: “PGMO is aware of the allegations and they are being treated with the utmost seriousness. Mark will co-operate fully and welcomes the opportunity for the facts to be established. No further comment will be made until this matter has been properly investigated."
The incident came when the Chelsea, and the game as a whole, was hoping to draw a line under the John Terry saga and his guilty verdict on a Football Association charge of racism towards Anton Ferdinand. The Chelsea captain was at the game yesterday and was around long after the final whistle on the pitch with friends.
Chelsea also had a major contribution from the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign before the game and referenced by Terry in his matchday programme notes. Both sets of players wore Kick It Out t-shirts in the warm-up, apart from Ashley Young although it was unclear why not.
Rio Ferdinand, brother of Anton, was booed by the home support although he did shake hands with Ashley Cole before the game. When Hernandez celebrated scoring the winner in front of the home supporters in the Matthew Harding stand, items were thrown from the crowd. A steward required treatment although the club said it was because he was knocked over in a crowd surge in the aftermath of the goal.
Di Matteo was very critical of Clattenburg’s decisions in his post-match press conference. “We are massively disappointed that these key decisions were wrong,” he said. “It always seems to be in favour of the opposition. That’s a massive disadvantage for us.
“I thought, at 2-2, we looked like the team that were probably going to win the game. So it’s a shame, because it was a good game of football with two good teams and the officials ruined it.”
Sir Alex Ferguson said after the game that Torres was to blame for his second yellow card following a challenge with Jonny Evans. “ Did he intend to dive? He could have gone on,” the United manager said. “I would never have gone down. I think it’s his own fault. He had already been booked.”