James Lawton: FA guilty of letting Chelsea play by club's own dubious rulebook

The FA had some stern words to say about Chelsea’s preparation of evidence in the Terry racism investigation but it was not accompanied by significant action

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The Independent Football

Yes, of course, Chelsea welcomed the Football Association's "recognition" that they were merely responding to a "duty of care" when they put referee Mark Clattenburg through that ferocious wringer of a racism investigation.

You bet they did. "Duty of care" is a fancy phrase in any walk of life. When it is applied to the modus operandi of a football club who have spent the last few weeks challenging almost every norm of decency and restraint, things are definitely looking up.

The problem, though, was surely self-evident. It was that even though Chelsea mustered a full team of witnesses – in all, 11, they reminded us proudly – it was clear from the outset that they were pursuing Clattenburg with the flimsiest of evidence. It was so slight it might have cautioned a lynch mob chasing a suspected horse thief back in the Old West.

Indeed, as Clattenburg speaks eloquently of the ordeal, even the terror of his fear for his professional future, he has experienced over the last few weeks, we are bound to ask a somewhat disturbing question.

Could it be that the FA is acquiescing in the belief that this is a club that can operate its own standards, make its own rules, without reference to or concern for any higher authority?

Certainly, you need a bad case of myopia to miss the pile of accumulating evidence.

First there is the context of still fairly recent history in the European theatre.

There is the fact that former manager Jose Mourinho helped drive Swedish referee Anders Frisk out of the game on a tide of death threats. Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo also paid a career-threatening price for his desperate, controversial handling of the 2008 Champions League semi-final with Barcelona.

Domestically, there was the case of leading players John Terry and Frank Lampard accusing England's leading official Graham Poll of conducting a vendetta against the club – charges later withdrawn on the club's official website.

Yesterday, as Clattenburg and his professional organisation considered legal redress against Chelsea, Poll called for the FA to come down hard on the club for its handling of the affair, for the carelessly applied public pressure on a man who was found so emphatically not to have a case to answer. But who could say that this referee wasn't whistling in the wind?

The FA had some stern words to say about Chelsea's preparation of evidence in the John Terry racism investigation but it was not accompanied by significant action.

It also categorised racism as an enemy that must be fought to the death while handing to Terry a hardly lethal four-match ban.

These are issues that might rear significantly at a club which hadn't so many reasons to believe it is, in the end, only answerable to its own idea of what might be understood to be a duty of care.

The very phrase, in other places, other situations, would have the power to haunt but we know very well the greatest preoccupation at Stamford Bridge tomorrow afternoon. It will not, let's be sure about this, involve any deep reflection on the need to draw back from some of the extremities of the club's public behaviour.

It will be the swiftest possible settling of the not overwhelmingly popular choice Rafa Benitez into the shoes of the discarded Roberto Di Matteo. Victory over league leaders Manchester City would no doubt provide some instant reassurance for the embattled faithful.

Heaven knows, they have plenty of experience in realigning their personal loyalties. Di Matteo is dead, long live Rafa – at least until we see if he can, as promised, reactivate the lost soul known as Fernando Torres.

Given his record over the last years at Anfield, the signings of Robbie Keane and Alberto Aquilani for the best part of £40m and the disaffecting of arguably the club's most relentless presence, Xabi Alonso, confidence in an extended reign for the interim manager may be a little far-fetched.

Nor was his brief stay at Internazionale cause for exactly untrammelled optimism. Still, who knows? Some Chelsea players might just respond to his schoolmasterly tendencies, although this number is not likely to include Lampard, Terry and Ashley Cole, who provided such impetus for the renovation job performed so unforgettably by the man who was cut down in the wee small hours of one of Chelsea's least promising mornings.

But then if anyone needs to believe in the recurring possibility of resurrection it is surely Chelsea and Benitez, who had his own miracle in Istanbul and before that a most impressive record with double title-winners Valencia.

At least he will not be able to complain, as he did at Anfield, that the ownership has deprived him of the oxygen of formidable talent. Money, of course, has never been a problem at Chelsea, no more than any pressing need to do the right thing, and who really cares about that? Not, the current evidence says, the FA.

Ricky, the ring is rough place for redemption

Ricky Hatton's hopes for his own redemption tonight also bring a degree of trepidation for some of the rest of us – and certainly those who were present in Las Vegas when the great Manny Pacquiao underlined the point made earlier by Floyd Mayweather, another fighter of the highest quality.

It was that, at his best, Hatton was a boxer of great courage and commitment who was skilfully guided to two huge pay-nights but, when it came to the most elite company, he was always going to find the odds heavily loaded against him.

His belief that he can reorder his life in the ring has inspired him to fitness – and a renunciation of a lifestyle that could only invite his own destruction. This is an inspiring story in itself but the worry is that it might just conjure some of the old illusions. The ring, as has already been pointed out, is not a place for therapy when you step out of your class.

Pujara is unbeaten in terms of his humility

Cheteshwar Pujara's extraordinary impact on the Test series has been partly to do with a wonderfully calm temperament.

There is another quality, though, that shone ever more brightly as his unbroken defiance of the English bowling stretched to 15 hours on the first day in Mumbai.

It was the apparently bone-deep humility which he has brought to the challenge of replacing such a titan as Rahul Dravid.

With his second century of the series secured, Pujara might well have left the final over of the day to his lower-order partner R Ashwin. However, he played the impressive Monty Panesar's final delivery to midwicket for a single – then played out the last six deliveries of Graeme Swann. It was the announcement of a batsman in charge of himself and all his responsibilities. Also, splendid contempt for the idea that at any point a major batsman is in need of the protection of a less accomplished team-mate.

Redknapp's chance is heaven-sent

The fall of Mark Hughes at QPR is a heavy blow for a youngish manager who still has plenty of time to confirm the promise of some fine early work, but it is also a potential offering from heaven for an old one who should never have been separated from active involvement at the highest level.

Harry Redknapp is not everyone's perfect cup of tea but the fact that some years of brilliant work at White Hart Lane were rewarded with the sack was fresh evidence of a game stripped of anything like a working value system.

Redknapp knows football and footballers in a most instinctive way. The game is enriched by his return.