LEEDS UNITED have confirmed that defender Giuseppe Bellusci will contest a Football Association charge of misconduct for allegedly using racist language towards Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome during their Championship fixture on October 21.
The Italian, who joined United in the close season for £1.6m from Catania, has until January 2 to appeal against the charge for a breach of FA Rule E3; it is alleged that Bellusci used abusive and/or insulting words towards Huddersfield-born Jerome.
It is further alleged by the FA that the breach is an “aggravated breach” as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.
The Canaries striker claimed he was called a “negro” by Bellusci, with Jerome complaining to referee Mark Clattenburg midway through the first half of the 1-1 draw at Carrow Road.
Bellusci strongly denied using any racist language, with United owner Massimo Cellino subsequently publicly defending the centre-half, stating unequivocally that he was no racist. The club reiterated their strong belief that Bellusci is not guilty of racism in a statement issued shortly after the FA charged him yesterday.
It said: “The player has consistently made it clear to the club that he did not use racist language.
“The club understands that there is no third party evidence supporting Mr Jerome’s allegation. Accordingly, the player will be contesting the charge.”
The FA have been investigating Jerome’s claims for the past two months. If Bellusci is found guilty, punishments include a suspension, a fine, or both.
Shortly after the FA announced it was investigating Jerome’s claims, Cellino mounted a staunch defence of Bellusci, who has missed United’s last three matches with a hamstring injury. But Cellino’s comments also suggested that he would kick a player out of the club if it was proven he was racist.
Speaking 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 Jerome’. He is surprised by this. He is shocked.
“He was p***** off, sure, because he got hit in the neck and the face, but he denies anything racist. I believe him and I’ll support him.
“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.
“I’ll write to them (the FA) to clarify my position on Bellusci and racism.
“If any Leeds player was shown to be a racist, he’d be out. That’s my philosophy and my promise.”
The Bellusci case bears similarities to the situation involving former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez back in December 2011, when the Uruguayan was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrick Evra.
Suarez persistently denied he was a racist and claimed that his use of the word negrito was not considered racist language in his homeland. However, the FA’s three-man independent commission, led by Paul Goulding QC, did not accept the argument and the player was banned for eight games and handed a £40,000 fine.