Chelsea were last night examining their options after the leak of a Uefa report revealed that the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, approached the referee, Anders Frisk, three times during the infamous half-time tunnel incident at the Nou Camp.
The report, by Uefa's venue director, Pascal Fratellia, claims that Rijkaard had eventually to be ordered back to his own dressing-room by Frisk. It runs completely contrary to the coach's account that he merely shook the referee's hand and welcomed him to Barcelona.
Although Fratellia's version of events to European football's governing body does not vindicate Chelsea's original claim that the two men had met in the referee's room, or get away from the fact that the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, questioned the referee's integrity, it does suggestthat Rijkaard may have made a concerted effort to influence Frisk. It also explains Chelsea's anger, especially as they claim their observations, for which they have been punished, were made in good faith.
Mourinho last week received a two-match touchline ban from Uefa for bringing the game into disrepute following the complaints and his subsequent, inflammatory comments. Chelsea sources contend that Mourinho has been punished for what he said in his column for the Portuguese magazine Dez Record when he talked of an "adulterated" result and claimed to have seen Rijkaard go into Frisk's room and believe Uefa decided to ignore what actually happened. They also concede that Mourinho was wrong to attack Frisk, but are angry that the Uefa investigator, Edgar Obertuefer, appeared to dismiss Fratellia's report out of hand. It fuels suspicions that Uefa was, in some way, out to nail Mourinho, especially as Frisk was forced to retire following death threats.
The timing of the leak is intriguing as it came the day after Chelsea's Champions' League quarter-final first-leg victory over Bayern Munich, overshadowing claims that Mourinho had circumvented his ban by using some form of communications device to keep in contact with the Chelsea bench.
The actions of the fitness coach, Rui Faria, who wore a hat, possibly to disguise an earpiece, and passed notes throughout, and the goalkeeping coach, Silvinho Louro, who made frequent trips down the tunnel, certainly raised suspicions. However, Chelsea insist there was no contact with Mourinho who, it has been confirmed, watched the match on a huge plasma screen television inside the Chelsea Club & Spa which is adjacent to Stamford Bridge and is part of the Chelsea Village complex.
Uefa's media delegates immediately cleared Chelsea of any wrongdoing, and nothing was raised in the post-match debriefing, but it has subsequently emerged that the governing body's disciplinary department will wait for the official report from the referee, Rene Temmink, before deciding whether to take any action.
Chelsea were not impressed by Temmink's performance, with the captain, John Terry, accusing him of making a "terrible decision" in awarding Bayern an injury-time penalty which made the scoreline, before Tuesday's second leg in Munich, 4-2. Terry also claimed that Bayern's Michael Ballack was a "serial diver" and said Temmink "wasn't listening all night".
But Fratellia's report dominated yesterday. In it he states that he spoke to Frisk immediately after the match and says: "The referee told us that he had contact with Frank Rijkaard from the pitch to the front of his dressing-room door (closed). Rijkaard wished to say hello to Frisk at the beginning of the tunnel and then tried to talk to him climbing the stairs.
"Frisk told us then that he said to Rijkaard that it was not the moment or the place to speak about any match situation and instructed him when he was in front of his dressing-room door (closed) to go to his dressing-room." Frisk reported a similar version of events to Uefa, and said he could not understand what Rijkaard was saying.
However, Fratellia's report is contradicted by two Uefa officials, Frits Ahlstrom and Graham Turner. They were also present for the post-match meeting. Chelsea pointed out these inconsistencies at the disciplinary hearing, believing it showed that the truth of what happened was not accurately conveyed.
The episode between Frisk and Rijkaard was witnessed by the Chelsea assistant manager, Steve Clarke, and Chelsea's security officer, Les Miles. Crucially for Chelsea, Rijkaard passed out of view and when he returned Clarke assumed he had been in Frisk's room. That, as it transpired, was wrong although Clarke, apparently in a genuine error, passed on the information to Mourinho which eventually led to the Uefa disciplinary hearing in which Chelsea were accused of telling lies. The fact that Clarke and Miles were only reprimanded indicates the panel accepted there was a misunderstanding.
Although Uefa confirmed that Chelsea have "waived the right to appeal" it is understood that the club were discussing whether or not they could pursue other avenues to seek redress as they feel Mourinho, who is furious they did not appeal, was victimised. However, they may simply be satisfied with the fact that Fratellia's report is now public.Reuse content