Victimhood has set in at Stamford Bridge. After acting despicably last week, dismissing a manager months into a reign that had yielded unexpected glory and refusing to apologise for the appalling slur on Mark Clattenburg’s reputation, the club is clinging to its bogus high ground.
We now have the nearest we may ever get to an apology for Chelsea’s disreputable conduct towards Clattenburg, exonerated by both police and FA after inquiries into flimsy allegations that he made an inappropriate, even racist remark towards Mikel.
An inadequate joint statement issued by the club, the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMOL) group and the Premier League read:
Following the completion of the investigation by the FA into the case involving Chelsea FC and Mark Clattenburg, the Premier League and Chelsea FC requested, and PGMOL agreed, to meet in order to discuss the issues surrounding the reporting of the allegation.
The Select Group appreciated the opportunity to speak to [Chelsea chairman] Bruce Buck personally. His willingness to engage and answer all the questions put to him was welcomed.
There was a constructive and open discussion. The club regrets not having given more consideration before issuing a statement on the evening of October 28.
Not quite the full, unqualified apology that decency demanded. It got worse. The club, we are told, “also regrets the subsequent impact the intense media scrutiny had on Mark Clattenburg and his family”.
The failure to apologise is one disgrace. The attempt to sidestep responsibility for the ensuing and entirely inevitable consequences for the referee, and instead imply guilt on the part of the media, is another. What were newspapers, TV and radio supposed to do once Chelsea chose to issue a public statement containing an sensational and explosive allegation?
Reports say it is “understood” – ie someone has said it but won’t go on the record – Chelsea avoid a direct apology because Ramires, with that wonderful command of English of his, sticks by his claim to have heard the ref tell Mikel: “Shut up you monkey.” That sounds more than a little like going behind the back of a jury verdict and coming up with your own. The club is also said to have been concerned that the word “sorry” would have made a legal claim possible, though this is a route Clattenburg has apparently made clear he has no wish to take.
The referees’ union Prospect has acted with some grace, offering a generous acknowledgement that having “received a good faith claim from one of their employees, the club had an obligation under FA rules to report the allegation”. It even more generously interprets the Chelsea “regret” as tantamount to an apology.
Earlier today, a Chelsea supporter posted the following piece of irony on Facebook after mention of the vile pro-stabbing, anti-Semitic West Ham chanting in the Spurs game: “I think that Chelsea fans were more than likely responsible for those chants. In fact they are probably responsible for everything bad in the world.”
Her view may have been influenced by my own suggestion that fans, Chelsea or not, tweeting “Rafa Benitez – the most unpopular caretaker since Ian Huntley”, were in danger of dragging us back to a neanderthal dark age of football.
Sorry, but those of us who do not support Chelsea – including some who greatly admired last season’s successes against Barca and Bayern – will feel entitled to watch that club’s behaviour on a host of fronts in the coming months.
* Kneejerk Chelsea-bashing? Consider