Mark Clattenburg has been stood down from refereeing for a week after the Football Association launched an investigation into allegations he used “inappropriate language” towards Chelsea players John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata.
Clattenburg was accused by the European champions of making offensive comments, which are understood to have been interpreted as racist, during their acrimonious Barclays Premier League defeat to Manchester United on Sunday.
Chelsea lodged a formal complaint with the match delegate, sparking an almost inevitable chain of events that yesterday saw the FA announce an investigation and Professional Game Match Officials withdraw Clattenburg from the firing line.
After deliberately omitting the 37-year-old from the games the refereeing body were due to officiate on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, PGMO said in a statement: “Professional Game Match Officials believe that, with any football match, the focus should not be on the officials but on the players and the game itself.
“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 PGMO decision, which is understood to apply to this week only, followed the FA’s decision to investigate.
The FA acted after receiving both the match delegate’s report and an ‘extraordinary incident report’ from Clattenburg himself.
These are submitted by referees on matters that may require FA intervention.
Clattenburg has vowed to co-operate fully with any investigation and was yesterday given the “full” backing of the referees’ union Prospect, which said in a statement: “Prospect is committed to helping to eradicate racism in football and in society generally.
“In the context of that commitment, Prospect is offering full support to Mark Clattenburg in relation to the allegations made against him.
“It is now important that the allegations are fully investigated through the proper process as quickly as possible.”
That process looks set to involve Clattenburg, Mikel and Mata all being interviewed by FA compliance officers, who are also likely to speak to other potential witnesses.
Those could include several Chelsea and Manchester United players and will almost certainly see Clattenburg’s assistants and fourth official asked to provide evidence.