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Potential rift between refs and Chelsea players

INVESTIGATED: Clattenburg faces a police interview about allegations he called Mikel a monkey

THE FURORE surrounding allegations of racist abuse made by Chelsea player Jon Obi Mikel against official Mark Clattenburg could exacerbate tensions between the club’s playing staff and the league’s referees.

Players at the west London club have expressed fears that the case – involving accusations that the 37-year-old ref called Mikel a “monkey” during a Premier League match against Manchester United (October 28) – could adversely affect how the men in black officiate their games.

Roman Abramovich’s side has utilised its external legal team after Mikel confirmed he wanted to pursue claims against Clattenburg. The European Champions are bracing themselves for another prolonged spell under scrutiny for off-field matters, just as a line was attempted to be drawn under the John Terry – Anton Ferdinand incident.

Earlier this week, Mikel’s agent, John Shittu, flew into London to support his client as the FA begin taking official statements from the players who claim to have heard what Clattenburg said to the Nigerian international.

Shittu has confirmed he is at Stamford Bridge to be present at an arranged meeting between the FA and the club regarding the Clattenburg incident.

It is understood the FA’s head of compliance, Jenni Kennedy, will perform the role of taking statements, just as she did during the Terry allegations. Kennedy’s efficacy was criticised by the FA’s independent regulatory commission for how she only took handwritten notes of Ashley Cole’s evidence.

All parties involved will hope the current investigation does not endure for a year like the Terry one did.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited’s (PGMOL) general manager, Mike Riley, revealed Clattenburg is set to be interviewed by police, and that the Durham-based official completely denies the allegations.

Riley, who appoints match officials, said the PGMOL would have been happy to allow Clattenburg continue overseeing games – just as Terry was able to carry on playing while facing a criminal investigation.

“PGMOL was fully prepared to appoint Mark to matches this weekend,” said Riley.

“However, having discussed this with him, we both consider it is in Mark’s best interests that he has this week away from officiating duties while he prepares to help the FA and the police with their enquiries.”

Clattenburg, who has not yet released a statement of his own, will be interviewed by police under caution. Brazilian international and Chelsea midfielder, Ramires, is one player who is understood to have heard the alleged racially charged words used by the ref.

The club, which currently sit second in the league behind Manchester United, say they have issued the FA with an information pack concerning the incident, however, the FA has not confirmed this.

Separately, Chelsea have confirmed they have banned Gavin Kirkham for life from entering Stamford Bridge. The 28-year-old attended last week’s (October 31) League Cup tie against Manchester United, and was caught on video surveillance making monkey gestures, purportedly directed toward Danny Welbeck.

The club said Kirkham, who has been arrested by Met police, is currently neither a season-ticket holder nor club member.

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