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By ESPN Staff

Chelsea reject racism charges

Chelsea have claimed there is 'no foundation' to the FA racism charge levelled against groundsman Steve Bethell.

Bethell has found himself in the dock following a post-match confrontation with Patrice Evra after the stormy meeting between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge last April.

Not only is Bethell facing a charge of improper conduct over his behaviour, following a three-month investigation, the FA feel sufficiently confident to bring a far more damaging claim of 'abusive language aggravated by reference to nationality/race'.

Chelsea are aware of the serious nature of the offence but are vowing to stand by Bethell.

'Chelsea FC believes there is no foundation whatsoever to claims that the incident which occurred after the Manchester United match on April 26 involved comments based on nationality or race, which has led to an FA charge against one of our employees,' said a club statement.

'Chelsea FC condemns all forms of discrimination in football and society.

'Such allegations against our club are extremely serious and Chelsea will not be making any further comment until we have assessed all the implications of the charge.'

Immediately after the incident it was claimed Evra, a France international who hails from Senegal, flew into a rage after hearing a racist taunt from a group of Chelsea groundstaff on the field during the visitors' warm-down following a 2-1 defeat.

Evra is currently in Manchester after appearing at Euro 2008 but neither he, nor his club, who are due to play in South Africa later today, are making any comment until the case - a date for which is yet to be set - is completed.

As expected, Rio Ferdinand has escaped sanction, although he has been warned about his future conduct after accidentally striking a member of the Chelsea staff with a door he kicked in anger as he made his way off the field.

Ferdinand has since apologised and sent the female staff member a bunch of flowers.

There had been some suggestion earlier this week the England defender was facing a four-match ban that could put his hopes of captaining the Three Lions under new coach Fabio Capello at risk.

However, those worries were instantly rejected by the FA, who insisted Ferdinand's place in the squad to face the Czech Republic on August 20 - before which Capello will name his new skipper - was not under threat.

And with the fear of a charge also proving unfounded, Ferdinand will be available for United's opening Premier League game against Newcastle on August 17.


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