The country’s select group referees will discuss on Monday whether they should press for action against Chelsea if the club do not apologise to Mark Clattenburg for their allegations of racism against him, which were dismissed yesterday by the Football Association.
There is understood to be a mood of militancy among the match officials group, with some individuals extremely angry that in Chelsea’s statement yesterday there was no apology or even acknowledgement of the distress that Clattenburg has been put through.
What action might be left open to them is not yet clear and, although they have proved a group who in the past have been reluctant to protest, the subject of Chelsea will be on the agenda at their regular PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials) meeting on Monday at the FA centre St George’s Park.
Last night, the match officials’ union Prospect last night publicly called upon Chelsea to apologise to the referee and pay him compensation, although Clattenburg himself stopped short of doing so personally.
There are understood to be talks between PGMOL, and its general manager Mike Riley, and Chelsea aimed at trying to persuade the club to make some kind of apology to Clattenburg.
Clattenburg’s representative Alan Leighton said that the charge was based on the 'flimsiest of evidence' and said that the club should never have gone public on allegations made by midfielder Ramires that, during the game at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United on 28 October, the referee had said 'shut up you monkey' to John Obi Mikel.
Yesterday, the FA said that Clattenburg did not have a case to answer and that the testimony of Ramires had not crossed 'the evidential threshold required to bring a charge'.
However, the governing body also cleared Chelsea of any malicious wrongdoing in bringing the complaint and said it was right to do so. The club do not believe they have any reason to apologise given their decision was vindicated by the FA.
In the judgement of David Waters QC, who considered the evidence gathered by the FA’s governance department, the allegation was, the FA said, 'made in good faith'. 'In this case, the player and club were correct in reporting the matter to the FA and it was appropriate and proper for such an allegation to be thoroughly investigated.'
The FA said: 'It is entirely possible for a witness to be genuinely mistaken and convincing in his belief. The FA receives and investigates numerous allegations of misconduct over the course of a season. All allegations are properly investigated. It is not uncommon for investigations to lead to no disciplinary charge being brought.'
In a statement yesterday, Chelsea said simply that they accepted “case is now concluded”. There is understood to be a fear among referees that they are offered no protection against such damaging allegations being made public, a point Clattenburg made in a statement following the judgement yesterday.
He said: “I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.”
Leighton said that the case had never reached such an advanced stage and as well as compensation to Clattenburg called upon Chelsea to make donations to anti-racism charities. He said: 'The charge was based on the flimsiest evidence that should never have got to this stage. It should never have been made public and should have been dealt with confidentially.
”We are not criticising Chelsea because they investigated the complaint —they had a duty of care. Rather the evidence consisted of just one statement and that is why they shouldn't have gone public.“
Mikel was charged with misconduct by the FA for his abuse of Clattenburg in the referee’s room after the game. Chelsea said that the player does not deny the charge but will request a personal hearing 'to explain the mitigating circumstances.'
In light of the episode, PGMOL said that they would now record all the dialogue transmitted on headsets between referees and their assistants in order to clarify any possible future complaints. The recordings will not be made public.
Speaking for the first time about the allegations, Clattenburg said: 'To know you were innocent of something but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was truly frightening.
'Racism has no place in football and this experience should not discourage those to speak out if they genuinely believe they are a victim of abuse. However, there are processes that should be adhered in order that any investigation can be carried out in a manner that is fair for all parties involved.
The FA laid out a detailed chronology of their investigation, in which Ramires, Mikel and other players, including Ashley Cole, were interviewed. Ramires was interviewed twice. His evidence was considered by the FA to be 'contradicted by other witnesses' and 'not supported by any other evidence'.
The FA confirmed that Mikel 'who was much closer to the referee' did not hear anything and the three officials connected to Clattenburg by headsets were 'adamant the alleged words were not uttered'. The FA said that it encouraged players to report discriminatory abuse.
How FA judged case: Statement extracts
The Football Association's statement was broken into three parts.
"On 5 November 2012, Chelsea FC provided the FA with witness statements. The FA interviewed Ramires and John Obi Mikel. Between 7-8 November, the FA interviewed all four match officials. On 15 November, the FA reinterviewed Ramires to show him previously unseen video footage provided by the club."
"Evidence for the allegation came from Ramires, whose first language is not English. [He] explained his instinctive reaction was to seek confirmation from John Obi Mikel as to what the referee said. There is nothing in the video footage to support the allegation. Three witnesses, the other match officials, to whom everything said by referee was relayed, are adamant the alleged words were not uttered."
"Having considered Counsel's opinion, and in view of all the circumstances, the FA does not believe there is a case for Mr Clattenburg to answer... Equally the FA is satisfied that the allegation against Mark Clattenburg by Ramires was made in good faith. It is entirely possible for a witness to be genuinely mistaken and convincing in his belief."