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London police open investigation into allegations against Mark Clattenburg

BRITAIN-POLICE-PROBE-RACISM-FBL-ENG-PR-CLATTENBURG-FILES

A file picture taken on October 28, 2012 shows Chelsea’s Nigerian midfielder John Mikel Obi (2nd L) talking with referee Mark Clattenburg (L) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London. London’s Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they have received a complaint about allegedly racist comments made by a top flight referee during last weekend’s match between Chelsea and Manchester United. Clattenburg is alleged to have used “inappropriate language”, reportedly of a racist nature, towards Chelsea’s Nigerian and Spanish players John Mikel Obi and Juan Mata at Stamford Bridge on October 28, 2012. AFP PHOTO/ADRIAN DENNIS RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

London Metropolitan Police are getting involved in the Mark Clattenburg affair, starting an investigation after a complaint was filed by a London-based professional group. Thanks to law enforcement’s part, accusations Clattenburg racially abused multiple Chelsea players will likely follow the same course as the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand affair, not the Luis Suárez-Patrice Evra incident.

The difference could effect the length of the saga. When the criminal system got involved with the Terry accusation, England’s Football Association pulled back and waited for legal proceedings to conclude. Afterward, the FA charged and eventually suspended Terry for racial abuse of Ferdinand.

The Suárez incident was never handled by law enforcement. The FA conducted its own investigation, handing down an eight-match ban two months after the Oct. 15, 2011 incident.

Although the accusations against Terry stemmed from an incident on Nov. 2, 2011, the Chelsea defender wasn’t sentenced until Sept. 27, 2012.

Although the FA had already begun an investigation into Chelsea’s accusations, the federation will again have to demur. If charges are ever brought against Clattenburg, the evidence introduced in a potential trial will also carry weight in the FA’s proceedings.

In the Terry case, charges were brought on Dec. 21, 2011, though his criminal trial was postponed until after this summer’s European Championships.

A potentially significant detail of today’s story is the organization filing the complaint. Although the Society for Black Lawyers may have some tie to professional soccer, these charges seem to have been made by an entity that had nothing to do with Sunday’s game.

That law enforcement is investigating the complaint implies England’s game can no longer elect to police itself. When an incident like this is alleged to have occurred, any entity can ask law enforcement to become involved.

Perhaps we’ve seen the end to Luis Suárez-like situations, where the league handles the investigation. If anybody can bring acts on the field into the courts, somebody will.