Chelsea's problem is that everything is seen through John Terry prism

Difficult decision for club to make accusation given recent history involving their captain

Surely there is not a single employee of Chelsea Football Club who arrived at Stamford Bridge on Sunday morning to open up the ground, to welcome Manchester United, who wanted that night to end this way.

But, on the night of the match, it was left to club officials to file a complaint about the conduct of Mark Clattenburg. The complaint went to Premier League match delegate Nick Cusack, who would pass it on to the Football Association. And the first lines were written of what could be months of acrimony, legal debate and the intense, bitter unpleasantness which seems to stain everything English football touches this decade.

On Sunday, Chelsea were still dealing with the loss of John Terry. Their captain was sat in the stands, for the second match of his four-game ban for language used almost exactly one year before. All he could do was watch as Robin van Persie educated David Luiz and Gary Cahill. Throughout, the United fans made clear what they thought of Terry's conduct and also that of Ashley Cole during the whole sorry affair.

The whole racial abuse issue is still everywhere. The home fans, for their part, were not exactly hospitable to Rio Ferdinand, also reminding him that Terry had been England captain before him, and after. Terry, of course, is still Chelsea captain, and has two games of his ban left. That great unravelling which started at Loftus Road last October may yet have careers to upset. It nearly upturned the Professional Footballers' Association last week.

So when Chelsea officials heard about the complaints of their players regarding Clattenburg, there must have been caution. Not just a natural caution born of any issue this serious but also one based on recent events. Who could possibly want to see anything resembling the last 12 months take place a second time?

Chelsea will not have taken the evidence they had lightly. They will not have taken the implications lightly. They certainly will not have taken the potential process lightly. They are, despite Sunday's loss, top of the Premier League, playing the most attractive football in the country, driven by the outstanding player so far this season in Juan Mata and the two most exciting, Oscar and Eden Hazard. They do not need a distraction.

But clearly there was a sense, in the bowels of Stamford Bridge, at around 7pm on Sunday evening, that this was a matter of the utmost seriousness and one which Chelsea would engage firmly. If the club felt that their players had been wronged – and, clearly, they do – they have a duty to support them.

The issue, though, is one of perceived credibility. There is a toxic accusation about that Chelsea, after the public humiliation of recent months, are interested to feel how the shoe feels on the other foot. If there is anger at how their captain was treated by the authorities, how would the authorities like to see their representative tainted in the same way? If all language on the pitch is actionable, then can Chelsea be the victims as well as the perpetrators?

What that reading shows is that it is impossible for Chelsea to escape from the prism of the Terry affair. Their anti-racism measures are very important to the club. Owner Roman Abramovich feels very strongly about anti-Semitism and discrimination and is keen for his club to appear as welcoming as possible.

There was a "One Game, One Community" banner paraded on the pitch by schoolchildren before kick-off on Sunday. The Chelsea players were all wearing their "Kick It Out" T-shirts. Chelsea work desperately hard to eradicate the problem of racism among some of their supporters. Stephen Fitzwater was banned from Chelsea for life this summer after racially abusing Didier Drogba. They work tirelessly before and during games with Tottenham Hotspur because of what might be said or sung.

But credibility on these issues is easy to lose and hard to win back. To many in the game and outside, the fact that it was John Terry who wrote in Sunday's programme notes that Chelsea are "committed to eradicating all forms of discrimination from our game" was an absurdity too far, even in the Premier League, even in 2012.

Chelsea, their critics say, had a perfect chance to make a meaningful stand this month. They could have stripped Terry of the captaincy after he declined to appeal against the FA independent regulatory commission's four-game ban. But there he was, in Donetsk last week, striding out with his anti-racism captaincy armband. He will lead Chelsea out again a week tomorrow against Shakhtar before returning to domestic football and domestic captaincy against Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday.

So Chelsea, trying to fight on behalf of players they feel have been wronged, have an issue. They are serious about this. They may, in time, be shown to be right. But after recent events they find their credentials on these matters impugned. And so they have a job to persuade and convince the world that, while this is not what they wanted, they mean what they say.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?