The Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, held face-to-face talks with Mark Clattenburg yesterday as the Premier League club took the first significant step towards brokering peace with the referee following the controversy of the past four weeks.
The Football Association last week dismissed the Premier League club's complaint that the referee had racially abused Mikel John Obi during the defeat by Manchester United on 28 October. Chelsea, while backing their midfielder Ramires over claims he heard Clattenburg refer to Mikel as "a monkey" during the 3‑2 loss, accepted the governing body's decision that there was no case for the referee to answer and had been discussing making a gesture of reconciliation towards the official, who always denied wrongdoing.
Although no public apology has been issued, despite regular calls from the referees' union, Prospect, Buck moved to speak with Clattenburg on Monday while visiting the national football centre at St George's Park in Burton-on-Trent. The Chelsea chairman, who met the 16 elite Premier League referees at what was a scheduled training camp for the officials, sought to quell the tension whipped up by the allegation in a move welcomed by all sides. Also in attendance were Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, and Mike Riley, the chief executive of Professional Game Match Officials. The talks are understood to have progressed well, with statements anticipated suggesting all parties are seeking to move on from the controversy. The Chelsea hierarchy had indicated in the wake of the FA's decision not to charge Clattenburg that they would have no objection to the 37-year-old officiating at their games in future, including at Stamford Bridge, and that remains a possibility, even this season.
The club have privately recognised the damage inflicted upon Clattenburg's reputation, with the official having been omitted from the referees' roster for four consecutive weekends while the FA conducted an inquiry into the alleged incident.
He returned as the fourth official for Tottenham Hotspur's victory over West Ham United at White Hart Lane on Sunday and will take charge of Wednesday's game between Southampton and Norwich at St Mary's having expressed relief last week that the incident had finally been resolved. Mikel, however, has requested a personal hearing having been charged with misconduct for allegedly using threatening or abusive words and/or behaviour "in or around the match officials' changing room" following the defeat. If the charge is upheld he will face a ban of a minimum of three matches and if the mitigating circumstances are rejected, that could stretch to five.
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