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July 24, 2017

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Police, FA examine claim ref abused Chelsea duo

LONDON -- Just as English soccer was slowly recovering from a divisive, year-long racism saga, the Premier League has been plunged into renewed controversy.

And, yet again, the accusation being leveled is linked to racism — a problem thought to have been largely eradicated from English soccer in the 1990s.

The new allegation appears unprecedented for the world's richest soccer league: Chelsea claims the referee used "inappropriate language" toward two players in the globally televised Premier League match against Manchester United on Sunday.

Midfielder John Obi Mikel is believed to be one of the players who Chelsea say was targeted by referee Mark Clattenburg, whose language has reportedly been interpreted as being racially offensive.

It is now being looked at by London's police force after a complaint by the head of the Society of Black Lawyers.

No one at Chelsea reported the incident to the police, but the European champions complained to the English Football Association.

"We will work in partnership with Chelsea Football Club and the Football Association in order to consider any allegation that is made in relation to the reported events," police said.

Clattenburg has been backed by the referees' union, Prospect, which issued a statement that highlighted the wider struggle against racism.

The program for Sunday's match included Chelsea captain John Terry using his column to dedicate the fixture to the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign and pledging commitment to "eradicating all forms of discrimination."

But Terry wasn't available for selection for Sunday's 3-2 loss to United. The defender is serving a four-match ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers rival Anton Ferdinand a year ago, although he was cleared in court of any criminal offense.

The saga only concluded with the FA verdict last month, and the bitter fallout caused deep fractures in English soccer.

After Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for also racially abusing an opponent last year, there were complaints about the leniency of Terry's punishment.

Some players, including Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, the brother of Anton, refused to back a Kick It Out campaign in protest last weekend.

But before Sunday's match, an uneasy truce seemed to be declared between the two factions in the case.

Rio Ferdinand shook hands with Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, who had staunchly backed Terry and was targeted by the United player on Twitter that led to a Football Association fine. Cole himself was later fined for criticizing the FA investigation that led to Terry's ban.

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