Brighton and Hove Albion has given its backing to defender Gaetan Bong in the race row involving Jay Rodriguez of West Bromwich Albion.
The pair clashed when the two Albions met in January and Bong accused the West Brom forward of saying to him: “You’re black (and) you stink.”
The club supported Bong’s complaint which was the subject of a hearing at the Football Association at Wembley earlier this month.
The hearing accepted, on balance, that Rodriguez said: “Your fucking breath stinks.”
Rodriguez admitted not being close enough to Bong to smell his breath but said it as an insult after the pair clattered into each other as they tried to play the ball.
The FA panel suggested that Bong may have misheard Rodriguez and ascribed no malice to either player, describing the incident as a genuine misunderstanding.
In its official report, the FA said: “Gaetan Bong reacted immediately and consistently with believing he’d heard something which offended him greatly.
“No one suggested he was lying and had made up the alleged words.”
The FA said that Rodriguez’s case was that Bong “must have made a genuine mistake”.
But since the hearing, remarks attributed to Rodriguez have further upset Brighton’s Cameroon international.
Yesterday (Wednesday 18 April) Brighton and Hove Albion issued a statement on behalf of Bong.
The club said: “Mr Rodriguez’s actions during our game against West Bromwich Albion, followed by statements issued by him and on his behalf by his various PR and legal advisers, have resulted in my character being questioned and subsequently for a number of accusations to be directed at me.
“Please let me be clear: I know what I heard and I did not mishear. My conscience in raising the complaint is therefore entirely clear.
“This was my first such experience in more than three years in this country and I would never seek to bring a false charge against a fellow professional.
“Those who have accused me of doing that do not know me. Equally those who have expressed an opinion were not there on the pitch at the time and only Mr Rodriguez and I know exactly what was said and I stand by my original complaint.
“I now wish to continue with my career and won’t be commenting further on this matter even if Mr Rodriguez chooses to issue any further statements.”
The club added: “Brighton and Hove Albion fully support Gaetan in the issuing of this statement. The club will not be making any further comment on this matter.”