Schmeichel escapes race charge: Football

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The Independent Online
Peter Schmeichel will not face charges of racism resulting from allegations made after his confrontation with Arsenal's Ian Wright late last year.

Television pictures appeared to show Schmeichel mouthing insults at Wright during Manchester United's 1-0 victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford on 16 November. However, the Dane denied making racial remarks and the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday decided not to take action against him.

Manchester United's solicitor, Maurice Watkins, said Schmeichel was delighted that no action would be taken. "Peter has been told the Crown Prosecution Service won't be pressing charges. He always believed this would be the outcome but he is just pleased to have it confirmed. Peter is not a racist," he said.

Schmeichel and Wright found themselves in conflict again last month, when United beat Arsenal 2-1 at Highbury. They had to be restrained at the end of that game, during which Wright made a controversial challenge on the United goalkeeper as they went for the ball.

The Football Association chief executive, Graham Kelly, has sent identical open letters to both players in which he implores them to make a public statement of conciliation, on the day Schmeichel learned he would not face a criminal charge for alleged racist remarks.

Kelly implies that, if the Arsenal striker and the Manchester United goalkeeper agree, they can avoid FA disciplinary action. In his letter to Schmeichel, he writes: "I have to decide what is best for English football. I have to be aware that both you and Ian Wright are public figures, idolised by millions of football fans at home and abroad. Your example is vitally important.

"That is why I ask you, in the interests of the game as a whole, to make a public statement of reconciliation with Ian Wright as soon as possible. In doing so, you can be a power for bringing the game together, not dividing it.

"In current circumstances, a drawn-out disciplinary procedure with uncertain results would not be helpful. I want to avoid it unless you and Ian Wright leave me no alternative."

Wright revealed that he had already tried to take the heat out of the situation. "I am happy to comply with the wishes of the FA and would add that, despite being approached three times by the CPS to make a statement or complaint based on video evidence, I have not done so for the benefit of football and everybody concerned with our national game."

Schmeichel refused to comment last night on the FA's suggestion that he and Wright should publicly clear the air.

Manchester United could be pitched into a club v country dispute if they reach the European Cup final, which is due to be played on 28 May - three days before England play Poland in Chorzow in a World Cup qualifying game. United could well have Philip and Gary Neville and David Beckham in Glenn Hoddle's England squad and the coach would ideally want them for the week preceding the Poland match.

The Football Association said yesterday that the matter would be discussed nearer the time. "It's a question for the two managers to decide on further down the line," a spokeswoman said.

Alex Ferguson is assessing Gadi Bromer, the Israeli international on trial at this week. The pounds 2m-rated Maccabi Tel Aviv defender, a United fan of long standing, has forsaken winning another cap for Israel this week in an effort to impress Ferguson. In spending the week with the double winners, Bromer, 23, misses his country's friendly game with Sweden.