Evra and United give evidence over Chelsea groundsman battle

Press Releasein Football

A Football Association regulatory commission will this afternoon conclude a two-day inquiry into the ugly post-match altercation between Patrice Evra and a Chelsea groundsman after Manchester United's April defeat at Stamford Bridge. While the French full-back is expecting to be fined it remains to be seen what sanction, if any, is imposed upon Chelsea.

A number of witnesses were called to give evidence to the four-man commission at Soho Square yesterday, including Chelsea stewards and members of United's coaching staff, with more statements to be heard today. Evra, who was among a group of United players conducting a warm-down after their side's 2-1 loss, was involved in a confrontation with one of the groundsmen, Sam Bethell, after being asked to move from the area of the pitch where they were jogging.

Punches appeared to be thrown - the incident was caught on camera - with United resigned to the likelihood that he will be found guilty of improper conduct. Evra had requested a personal hearing and arrived at Soho Square along with Maurice Watkins, United's lawyer, and the assistant manager Mike Phelan.

Evra was expected to argue to the commission that he was provoked by Bethell, who had himself been charged with improper conduct and using abusive language aggravated by reference to nationality and/or race. An independent commission subsequently cleared him, ruling that the FA did not have disciplinary jurisdiction over the groundsman because Chelsea had failed to inform him that he was subject to FA rules.

The FA went on to charge Chelsea "for their failure to include the required provisions in his employment contract" and with "failing to ensure that Bethell conducted himself in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from any one or a combination of racist and/or abusive and/or provocative conduct and/or language".

That charge appears to hinge on evidence to be heard from Phelan, a key witness as Evra claims he did not hear any racist comments during the incident. Chelsea have consistently denied there was any racist element to Bethell's conduct.


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