Ref Clattenburg given time off as FA examine race row claims

REFEREE Mark Clattenburg has been stood down from this week’s fixtures after the Football Association launched an investigation into allegations that he used a racial slur towards Chelsea players.

The Blues made an official complaint about Clattenburg using “inappropriate language” to two of their stars – believed to be John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata – after Sunday’s explosive defeat to Manchester United. It is understood that part of the claims involve Clattenburg using a reference to race.

Clattenburg, one of the country’s top referees who regularly officiates international matches and took charge of the men’s Olympic final at Wembley in August, sent off Chelsea pair Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres as the Blues lost a contentious Premier League contest 3-2 at Stamford Bridge.

Referees’ body Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) yesterday confirmed that the Durham 37-year-old would be rested until after the weekend in order to shield him from undue attention.

“PGMO believe that, with any football match, the focus should not be on the officials but on the players and the game itself,” it said in a statement. “Mark Clattenburg is one of the elite referees in world football and, in these circumstances, the intense level of scrutiny would detract from the match and be unfair to the clubs and the supporters of both sides.”

The FA issued a brief statement to confirm it had “begun an investigation relating to allegations made following Sunday’s fixture at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United”.

FA chiefs will study Clattenburg’s report of the game, as well as that of the Premier League’s match delegate, and may request footage from broadcaster Sky. One of the flashpoints in question is thought to have occurred when Clattenburg booked Nigeria midfielder Mikel.

A verdict may rest on evidence from Clattenburg’s assistants, who were in radio contact with the referee throughout and therefore in a position to corroborate Chelsea’s claims.

The controversy comes amid heightened debate about racism in football, after Chelsea captain John Terry was found guilty by the FA of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand. Terry denies the allegation.

Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, confirmed yesterday they are investigating an incident during the same match that left a Chelsea steward hospitalised. Chelsea have also launched their own probe into the matter, amid reports of objects, including coins and part of a seat, being thrown onto the pitch after United’s winning goal.