Furious Kenyon hits back at Uefa

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The Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, yesterday broke his silence over the damning criticism of his club by Uefa and said that the allegations by the European game's governing body had made it almost impossible for them to get a fair trial at their disrepute charge hearing next week.

The accusations by Uefa on Monday that Chelsea lied in their account of events at half-time during the match against Barcelona at the Nou Camp on 23 February, have shocked the Stamford Bridge hierarchy and they struck back with a statement that condemned Uefa's conduct over the affair.

It means that the stakes have been raised once again ahead of Chelsea's disrepute charge, which will be heard on Thursday by a three-man independent commission in Nyon, Switzerland, where, privately, Chelsea believe they have no chance of being acquitted.

The extraordinary series of events which began with Mourinho accusing Frank Rijkaard of entering the dressing-room of the referee, Anders Frisk, at half-time and resulted in the Swedish official's retirement - because of threats to his family - have blighted Chelsea's successful season. As they close in on the Premiership title, and find themselves in the last eight of the Champions' League, their reputation is on the line at next week's hearing.

However, with the criticisms of Mourinho from Uefa officials ranging from accusations of him being "an enemy of football" to "poisonous", Kenyon felt he could not wait until 31 March to speak out publicly. In a statement signed by the chief executive, he robustly denied that Chelsea had lied about events at the Nou Camp.

Kenyon went on to defend the integrity of Mourinho, the assistant manager, Steve Clarke, and security official Les Miles, who have been accused by Uefa of making "false declarations". The Chelsea chief executive also said that Uefa had broken its own rules on process and stoked the dispute with "inflammatory language".

Kenyon said: "These various statements have called into question publicly the integrity of our manager, assistant coach, security officer and the club as a whole and we cannot allow these to stand unchallenged

"Chelsea utterly refutes that the club, or any of its representatives, participated in a deliberate ploy of false declarations or lies in order to cynically influence the result of the tie, to put pressure on refereeing officials or poison the atmosphere between the teams. All statements in our report submitted to Uefa were made in good faith and are honestly held. Unfortunately, some within Uefa have decided to ignore their own organisation's reputation for fairness and correct procedure by playing out this debate in the public arena ahead of any hearing. This hearing would have been, and still is, the right and proper forum for such debate.

"These individuals have used deliberately inflammatory language which Chelsea finds unjust and unhelpful. The use of such language, and the nature of the public statements as a whole, give us grave concern about our chances of receiving an impartial and fair hearing.

"Our defence has been dismissed before it has even been considered. Our witnesses have been branded as liars without any opportunity to be heard or defend themselves. That offends all principles of justice both in England and across Europe."

Kenyon, who described the mood at his club as "surprised and disappointed", went on to threaten that if the punishment meted out to Chelsea next week was considered too punitive, they would take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Uefa could even decide to throw them out of the Champions' League, although such a move would take the level of hostilities between the club and the governing body to a new level.

Uefa adopted a more conciliatory tone yesterday when their spokesman, William Gaillard, whose colourful commentaries on Chelsea have angered the club, said that Chelsea were "innocent until proven guilty". "They can go to CAS, it is within their right," he said. "They have their opinion and they are entitled to it but there is a due process and we will go through it. Whether you are big, small or a medium-sized club you are treated in the same way."