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FA probes Clattenburg claims
The Football Association has launched a formal investigation into allegations Mark Clattenburg used "inappropriate language" towards John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata during Chelsea's acrimonious defeat to Manchester United.
Clattenburg was accused by the European champions of making comments which are understood to have been interpreted as racist during Sunday's Barclays Premier League game at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea made an official complaint to the match delegate, whose report appeared to have been passed to the FA on Monday.
A statement from English football's governing body read: "The FA has begun an investigation relating to allegations made following Sunday's fixture at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United (Sunday 28 October 2012). The FA will make no further comment at this time."
An FA probe was almost inevitable the moment Chelsea made their allegation against Clattenburg, who has vowed to co-operate fully with the authorities.
The referees' union, Prospect, pledged their "full support" to the under-fire official, saying in a statement: "Prospect is committed to helping to eradicate racism in football and in society generally.
"In the context of that commitment, Prospect is offering full support to Mark Clattenburg in relation to the allegations made against him. It is now important that the allegations are fully investigated through the proper process as quickly as possible."
That process looks set to involve Clattenburg, Mikel and Mata all being interviewed by FA compliance officers, who are likely to speak to other potential witnesses. Those could include other Chelsea and Manchester United players and will almost certainly see Clattenburg's assistants and fourth official asked to provide evidence.
Former Premier League referee Graham Poll told BBC Radio Five Live: "A referee's microphone is on open. Everything he says is heard by two assistants. So if Mark said something, the assistants would have heard it. If a comment of a racial nature was made, I think it should be reported and I think assistant referees will report it because there's no place for it."
Former Premier League referee Jeff Winter, who retired shortly before Clattenburg became a member of the top flight's Select Group, claimed the official was doomed if he was proven to have used "racial insults" towards a player. "If a match official has used racial insults or language to a player then he's for the high jump," Winter said.