Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel was on Thursday suspended for three matches and fined ￡60,000 (US$96, 318) for clashing with match officials following the controversial 3-2 defeat to Manchester United.
Mikel was reported to have stormed into the officials’ dressing room at Stamford Bridge after the Premier League match in October following accusations that referee Mark Clattenburg had racially abused him, but the Football Association (FA) decided there was “no case to answer” over the allegation that Clattenburg said “shut up you monkey” to Mikel and the official was cleared of all charges.
Mikel had admitted using threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behavior in the official’s changing room at the end of the game on Oct. 28, the FA said.
“Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel has been given a three-match suspension to begin with immediate effect and fined ￡60,000 following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today,” an FA statement said. “The Regulatory Commission’s independent chairman, Christopher Quinlan QC, emphasised that the Independent Regulatory Commission accepted, as did The FA, that at the time he threatened the referee the player genuinely believed that the referee had racially abused him. But for that factor the suspension would have been significantly longer. Subsequently The FA investigated the allegation that the referee racially abused the player and found that there was not a case for him to answer.”
The referees trade union, Prospect, lashed out at Mikel’s punishment, claiming it was too lenient.
“It is vital that officials were given real respect and this decision regrettably gave entirely the wrong message. A player in parks football found guilty of behaviour like Mikel’s would have faced a long-term ban,” a Prospect statement said.
Prospect national secretary Alan Leighton claimed Mikel’s behavior deserved a heavier sanction.
“For entering the referees dressing room, and threatening and intimidating the referee to the extent that he feared for his safety, the penalty was no longer than had the player been sent off for serious foul play,” Leighton said. “This did absolutely nothing to further the Respect campaign.”
Leighton added that “far too much weight had been given to the mitigating factor and that Mikel’s behavior merited a strong deterrent penalty.”
Mikel’s suspension took effect immediately, ruling the Nigeria international out of domestic duty until Dec. 26.
The 25-year-old, who signed a new five-year contract on Wednesday, will miss today’s trip to Sunderland, but will be available when his club compete in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan next week.
With Mikel also likely to be absent on Africa Cup of Nations duty next month, Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has started looking for cover for the Nigerian from within his squad.
Benitez employed David Luiz in midfield during parts of the 6-1 UEFA Champions League win over Nordsjaelland on Wednesday and admitted he was prepared to use the Brazilian defender further up the pitch to provide an alternative to Ramires and Oriol Romeu in the holding role.