Chelsea went public for the first time on Tuesday with detailed racial abuse allegations against a referee, insisting there was no misunderstanding and that their players heard Mark Clattenburg use the word “monkey” during a Premier League match.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck opted to end the club’s public silence on the claims despite an ongoing investigation by the Football Association (FA) into the events during last month’s match against Manchester United.
However, Clattenburg is no longer being investigated by police because of a lack of evidence. The probe was sparked by the Society of Black Lawyers complaining based on media reports, but neither Chelsea nor their players approached the Metropolitan Police.
“Inquires were made and no victims have come forward ... without a victim and/or any evidence that any offense has been committed, the matter cannot currently be investigated,” the police force said in a statement.
European champions Chelsea have been criticized for lodging a complaint with the FA while still backing captain John Terry, who has just served a four-match ban for racially abusing an opponent.
However, Buck said in an interview with the London Evening Standard that Chelsea had a duty to report the allegations after black midfielders John Obi Mikel and Ramires said they heard the offending word.
“Suppose we had tried to sweep this under the rug and said to the various players: ‘Look, it’s not a big deal and the press are going to be all over us, maybe you want to reconsider,’” Buck was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s edition of the newspaper. “If that had leaked out, we would’ve really been crucified.”
Buck is sure the allegations are not baseless, amid suggestions the players might have misheard Clattenburg, who is yet to publicly respond to the allegations.
“I spoke to the players involved, either because they were allegedly the recipient of that abuse or had heard it, three separate times,” the American lawyer said. “I asked them if they could be mistaken. I asked them if they might have heard ‘Mikel’ instead of ‘monkey.’ I thought I had covered that base.”
Chelsea’s decision to complain to the FA was taken without considering how it would be connected to Terry’s ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand last year, yet still retaining the captaincy.
“The press seem to juxtapose ‘our support’ of John Terry and what’s going on here, and looking at us as being a bit hypocritical,” Buck said. “We have to divorce the John Terry situation from this. From our perspective, the latest situation was pretty straightforward.”
“We have an obligation to report what may be misconduct. We did that, in good faith and not maliciously,” he added.
Chelsea’s complaint against Clattenburg has been criticized by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who said he does not believe the allegations. United won the match at Stamford Bridge 3-2 with Javier Hernandez scoring from an offside position, after Chelsea duo Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres had been sent off.
“The reaction has been very unfair,” Buck said. “We weren’t interested in any confrontation with the referee or anybody else, had no thoughts of revenge on the referee. He made two obvious mistakes [sending Torres off and allowing Hernandez’s goal] which changed the tide.”
“I felt we had the moral high ground, so I didn’t really feel that bad about the defeat or have that feeling in my stomach,” Buck added.
Clattenburg has not refereed since the allegations arose, although he resumed training on Monday with other top-flight officials.