Paul Parker

Clattenburg case a critical moment for FA

Paul Parker

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The allegation that a referee may have racially abused a player is incredibly serious and the Football Association now faces a critical moment where it must be seen to take the right course of action.

We learned on Tuesday afternoon that the police have joined English football's governing body in launching an investigation into the sensational claims from Chelsea, relating to alleged comments made by Mark Clattenburg about John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata. Clattenburg is understood to completely reject the allegations.

During the John Terry case last year the Football Association puts its own investigation on hold while the police investigation proceeded, but that absolutely cannot be allowed to happen again. It cannot wait for the police, because we saw when Terry's case dragged on even beyond the Euros that the process can take months and months.

The FA is able to conduct its own investigation independently of what may or may not be happening with the police and as the game's governing body it has a duty to carry that out as quickly and effectively as possible.

It can't kid anyone now. After handling the Terry case badly the FA has to get itself into a position of strength by reacting and saying it will press ahead with its investigation into Clattenburg, irrespective of what else is going on.

The FA needs to learn from its previous mistakes in order to keep everyone onside and maintain this fragile peace in English football. The Terry situation and the Suarez case before that have left things in a precarious state and we cannot afford to have another drawn-out saga that feeds into the discontent we already see in the English game.

The FA made a mess of the Terry situation - any other organisation would have put him on gardening leave - and can't afford to bottle it again. Everyone is looking at the FA to take the lead and it has to get it right. Getting it right means conducting a swift and vigorous investigation, whatever the final result.

People need to believe that the FA has got stronger and taken lessons on board. Faith needs to be restored in the organisation. It can't just repeat the errors of the past -the state of the greatest game in the world depends on it.

Make no mistake, this is another deeply embarrassing episode for the English game. We believe we are the leaders in the fight against racism and organisations like Kick It Out do do a fantastic job, contrary to what some believe. But that means that we must be decisive when dealing with issues that arise in our own backyard.

We rightly kicked up a huge fuss when our young players were subject to disgraceful abuse in Serbia and we cannot be hypocritical and dither when allegations are made in our own country. The truth must be uncovered, and quickly.

To allow it to fester and drag on is in no one's interests, not least Mark Clattenburg's. At present he has been stood down from refereeing as it has been decided, quite rightly, that if he was officiating a game he would be the centre of attention and that should never be the case for a referee.

Whether he is guilty or innocent, this needs to be put to bed as soon as is humanly possible. If the FA can do that then it will claw back some of the respect it has lost over the past year or so.

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