CHELSEA chiefs last night admitted they were hasty in publicly accusing referee Mark Clattenburg of racially abusing John Obi Mikel – but stopped short of issuing an apology to the official.
Clattenburg was cleared by the Football Association last week following an investigation that concluded the complaint – that he had called Mikel a “monkey” – was based solely on the testimony of the Blues’ Brazilian star Ramires.
The Durham official only returned to match duty on Saturday, four weeks after the controversy flared following Chelsea’s 3-2 Premier League defeat to Manchester United.
“The club regrets not having given more consideration before issuing a statement on the evening of Sunday 28th October,” read a joint message issued by Chelsea, the Premier League and Professional Game Match Officials (PGMOL). “The club also regrets the subsequent impact the intense media scrutiny had on Mark Clattenburg and his family.”
Yesterday’s statement followed peace talks between Blues chairman Bruce Buck, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and referees’ body PGMOL on Monday.
It added: “The referees accept that, given Chelsea FC had received a good faith claim from one of their employees, the club had an obligation under FA rules to report the allegation.
“There was recognition by all parties that the impartiality and integrity of refereeing in this country remains paramount. Chelsea FC made it clear they would welcome Mark Clattenburg back to Stamford Bridge in the future and PGMOL would have no issue in appointing him to a Chelsea FC match going forward.”
Referees’ union Prospect responded by dropping its demand that Chelsea pay compensation to Clattenburg, saying that the club’s use of the word “regret” was tantamount to saying sorry.
Chelsea attracted fierce criticism for their handling of the issue, which came just weeks after captain John Terry was handed a four-game ban for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.