Chelsea Race Case Against Clattenburg In Jeopardy As Club Call In Lawyers To Probe Players' Claims Against Referee
The club are expected to conclude their internal investigation on Wednesday into allegations that the referee racially abused John Mikel Obi and called Juan Mata a 'Spanish t***'.
The external lawyers will then provide Chelsea with legal opinion as to whether their case will be successful. Despite issues over the available evidence, Chelsea remained robust.
Clattenburg, who has been taken off the Premier League match list this weekend, has protested his innocence since his controversial handling of Chelsea's 3-2 defeat by Manchester United on Sunday.
Now it has emerged that Chelsea are fearful of the backlash if the players have misheard or misjudged Clattenburg's conversations during the stormy clash against United.
Chelsea will proceed with the case against the referee only if they are satisfied the claims made by the players after the game will stand up to the FA's burden of proof.
It means they will need to satisfy an FA commission 'on the balance of probability', but they also have to negotiate the complexities of the Metropolitan Police's investigation into the affair.
If the case breaks down, it will reflect badly on Chelsea, who made their claims of inappropriate language against Clattenburg in a strongly worded statement on Sunday, two hours after the final whistle.
Earlier it emerged that the club and Mikel could be charged with misconduct by the FA after the midfielder had to be restrained from manhandling the referee in his dressing room following the clash.
Clattenburg did not mention the behaviour in the 'extraordinary incident' report he filed on Sunday, but he now has to make a detailed statement to the FA. Clattenburg's assistants, Michael McDonough and Simon Long, and fourth official Mike Jones have filed reports in which they say they did not hear the Durham official say anything inappropriate.
All four were in the referee's room when Mikel burst in with Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay and manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Mikel's aggressive manner, along with the behaviour of other Chelsea officials, raises the possibility of FA action against the club.
Both Mikel and Mata claim they have a witness to Clattenburg's comments, and PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, who has assessed both complaints, told Sportsmail the pair have his '100 per cent support'.
However, it has emerged that the allegations about the referee's comments were made only after a debate in the Chelsea dressing room. Mikel and Ramires were discussing the alleged use of racist language and were then quizzed by senior Chelsea players about what they had heard before the matter was taken further.
Sunday's controversy is also the subject of a police investigation and Clattenburg will be interviewed by them as well as the FA, who are conducting a separate inquiry into his handling of the clash.
The PFA had a delegate at the game and he has discussed the matter with Taylor, who said: 'The main thing is that the police investigation will not affect the process at the FA.
'We are supportive of the players and they have our 100 per cent backing. I find it difficult to believe that Chelsea's players would make something like this up. At the same time I find it hard to conclude that a referee could say something of this nature.'
Clattenburg found an unlikely ally in Leeds manager Neil Warnock, who said he was disgusted with Chelsea for 'trying to kill' the official.
Warnock, preparing for Leeds' Capital One Cup win over Southampton, was critical of the accusations against Clattenburg, who enraged Chelsea by sending off Fernando Torres for diving when replays showed he had been fouled.
Warnock said: 'You know my relationship with referees but I have to say I am disgusted with what's gone on. I'm on Clattenburg's side. We ask referees to man-manage and that's what he does. I'm sure he might have said a few things but are you telling me if Chelsea had won that game that there would have been one iota of a complaint?
'I hope if it is proved wrong, that the players, whatever they alleged Mark to have said, get done as well. I think he made a mistake but they are trying to kill him and I don't agree with that.'
In a further development, police chiefs upgraded security at Stamford Bridge for the Capital One Cup tie against United as tension between the teams threatens to escalate.