Giuseppe Bellusci’s racism charge will go before a Football Association disciplinary commission tomorrow with the Leeds United defender fighting to avoid a minimum five-game ban.
Bellusci is set to attend tomorrow’s hearing in person and will deny allegations that he racially abused Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome during a Championship game in October.
The Italian centre-back is accused of calling Jerome a “negro” midway through the first half of a 1-1 draw between Leeds and Norwich at Carrow Road on October 21.
Bellusci has protested his innocence since the claim against him was passed to the FA by match referee Mark Clattenburg and United promised him their full support after the 25-year-old was charged with misconduct by the governing body on December 22.
The FA has not made the date or location of Bellusci’s hearing public and it declined to comment.
Sources close to the process do not expect the disciplinary commission to deliver its verdict immediately and a ruling on Bellusci’s charge is more likely to come next week. The defender, who is currently one game into a mandatory two-match ban after his red card in last month’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth, will face a lengthy suspension if the FA finds him guilty.
The organisation’s rules were rewritten in 2013 to impose a minimum ban of five games on any player found guilty of racism or other discriminatory behaviour.
That sanction was introduced following the high-profile and controversial racism cases which led to suspensions for Chelsea captain John Terry and former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.
Leeds are at risk of losing Bellusci for at least a month of their Championship term and they moved to sign defensive cover during the January transfer window by taking Sol Bamba on loan from Palermo.
Neither Bellusci nor the FA has commented on his hearing since he was charged three days before Christmas.
In a statement released at the time, the FA said: “Giuseppe Bellusci has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 which is alleged to have occurred during the fixture between Norwich City and Leeds United on October 21, 2014.
“It is alleged Bellusci used abusive and/or insulting words towards Cameron Jerome, of Norwich City FC, contrary to Rule E3 (1).
“It is further alleged that this breach of Rule E3 (1) is an “aggravated breach” as defined in Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.”
Bellusci is halfway through his first season in England after joining Leeds from Catania last summer.
He was one of 15 players who signed for United during the transfer window, moving on loan initially before making the move permanent for a reported fee of £1.6m.
Bellusci is tied to a four-year contract at Elland Road.
United owner Massimo Cellino - currently banned from running the club by the Football League - mounted a staunch defence of Bellusci 24 hours after the match at Carrow Road in October.
Cellino said: “Bellusci is no racist. I spoke with him and he said ‘you must be joking, I said nothing like this to him (Jerome).’ He is surprised by this. He is shocked.
“I don’t allow racists at this club and I won’t allow racists at this club ever. If one of my players is a racist, I’ll kick his a**e and kick him out before the FA has a chance.
“Bellusci says he spoke (to Jerome) in Italian. I don’t know if he (Jerome) speaks Italian too but Bellusci swears to me he said nothing racist. I believe him and and I’ll support him.”