The Express and Star reported last week on the ruling handed down by the Independent Regulatory Commission investigating an “aggravated breach” of the Football Association Handbook by Newcastle United player Jonjo Shelvey, who was accused of shouting racist slurs against Wolverhampton Wanderers player, Romain Saiss.
The Commission investigated claims Shelvey made racist slurs at the 87th minute of a match fixture between the two teams on 17 September 2016. The incident happened when Mr Saiss made a gesture indicating his approval of a red card which was issued to Newcastle player Vurnon Anita after a tackle on a Wolves player.
Shelvey was said to have abused the Moroccan midfielder making racist remarks pertaining to his Arab origins. While three Wolves players, Dominic Iorfa, Matt Doherty and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, were called by the FA in its case against Shelvey, there is some confusion over the exact words uttered although all three witnesses recalled Saiss being referred to derogatorily as “Arab”.
Mr Shelvey denied making any such racist comments claiming he had called Saiss a “smelly breathed p***k”. But the FA Commission found that though the three Wolves players who gave oral evidence recalled different terms of abuse, “you Arab p***k” and “you Arab c**t,” “smelly Arab c**t” and “Moroccan p***k” and “Arabic c**t,” it was unlikely that all three “misheard the use of the word “Arab” by Mr Shelvey.
Mr Saiss himself did not hear the words of abuse with the Commission noting “It is a feature of this case that Mr Saiss, who was the object of the alleged abusive words, did not hear the alleged words being spoken and neither did the referee.”
The FA’s Handbook 2016/17 Rule E3(1) and (2) stipulate:
(1) A Participant shall at all times act in the best interests of the game and shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.
(2) A breach of Rule E3(1) is an ‘Aggravated Breach” where it includes a reference to only one or more of the following:- ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, religion or belief, gender, gender assignment, sexual orientation or disability.
The FA maintained Mr Shelvey had committed an aggravated breach of the Handbook, a decision affirmed in the ruling by the Independent Regulatory Commission. The Commission concluded the FA had discharged its burden of proof on the “balance of probabilities” and found Shelvey guilty of aggravated breach of Rule E(3)1.
The Commission sanctioned Mr Shelvey handing down a “mandatory minimum five match suspension” and a requirement to attend a “face to face mandatory education course”. The Commission also fined Mr Shelvey £100,000.
Sir Herman Ouseley, chairman of the anti-racism charity Kick it Out which campaigns against racism in sport called for an apology following the ruling. He said: “To bring closure to this incident so all parties can move on and to send out the right message, we hope both Newcastle United and Shelvey issue a public apology to the player concerned and his club, so that everyone can look forward to the remainder of the season.
“Kick It Out has been in contact with Newcastle United to offer support and will continue to liaise with the club, who have demonstrated their commitment to equality and inclusion by achieving the Preliminary level of the Premier League’s Equality Standard,” he added.
Mr Shelvey issued a statement last Thursday maintaining he did not use racist language but said that he would not be appealing against the Commission’s decision or his five match suspension.