LEEDS United owner Massimo Cellino has spoken out in defence of Giuseppe Bellusci, saying the centre-back denies allegations of racism against him and will fight any charges from the Football Association.
Cellino moved to back Bellusci after the 25-year-old was accused of aiming a racist slur at Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome during a 1-1 draw between Leeds and Norwich at Carrow Road last night.
The FA confirmed this morning that it had begun investigating claims from Jerome that he was racially abused during a confrontation between him and Bellusci midway through the first half of yesterday’s Championship game.
The governing body has received a report from match official Mark Clattenburg and is preparing to begin the process of contacting both clubs, reviewing video footage and formally speaking to Jerome.
Bellusci - signed by Leeds from Serie A club Catania for £1.6m in August - would face a minimum five-game ban if he was found guilty of racist abuse but he received the unequivocal support of Cellino after speaking with United’s Italian owner today.
Cellino told the YEP: “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. He was p****d off, sure, because he got hit in the neck and the face but he denies anything racist. I believe him and and I’ll support him.”
The FA is yet to make contact with Leeds about the incident but Cellino said: “I’ll write to them 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.”
Jerome complained to Clattenburg immediately after his clash with Bellusci last night and the referee halted the game briefly to speak to the striker and both benches.
The incident was included in Clattenburg’s match report and a spokesman for the FA said: “The FA can confirm it is investigating an incident of alleged discriminatory abuse in the Norwich City versus Leeds United fixture at Carrow Road on Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
“The FA takes seriously any allegations of this type.”
United head coach Darko Milanic declined to comment immediately after the game, saying he would discuss the matter with Bellusci during the coach journey back to Yorkshire.
Norwich manager Neil Adams said: “Cameron’s alleged that a racist remark’s been made. Because of that, Mark Clattenburg - who I thought handled the incident really well - came over to explain to Darko and me what I’m telling you now.
“He (Clattenburg) spoke to Cameron because of the way Cameron reacted. We spoke to the players at half-time with representatives of each of the clubs, and statements will be made. Mark will submit a report to the FA. It’ll be dealt with from there.”
Clattenburg did not punish either player for the confrontation between them but Jerome was booked moments later after another collision with Bellusci.
“I can’t comment any further because it’s an allegation,” Adams said. “Of course we’ll back our player and I’m sure Leeds will back their player. The situation was dealt with well.”
Jerome addressed the incident on Twitter but said he would not publicly reveal the exact details of Bellusci’s alleged comments.
The Huddersfield-born striker tweeted: “On what was actually said would not be fair for me to say at this point but it will be a matter for the governing body to deal with.
“As all will know an allegation has been made by myself to the referee in which he made note of and will write it in his match report.”
Kick It Out, a group who campaign against racism in football, revealed that it had contacted Norwich to offer support to Jerome.
“Kick It Out is aware of an allegation of a racist remark made towards Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome by Leeds United defender Giuseppe Bellusci,” a statement from the group read.
“The FA has confirmed that it is investigating the incident and we have been in touch with Norwich and Cameron to offer him our support and any assistance he may require.
“We now await the outcome of the FA’s investigation.”