Sam Bethell Charge: How Will Chelsea Handle It?

Manchester United defender Patrice Evra and Chelsea groundsman Sam Bethell are both up on charges for their part in the scuffle that kicked off as United’s players warmed down on the Stamford Bridge pitch after our ‘controversial’ win over the reds in April.

Evra, Paul Scholes, John O’Shea, Gary Neville and Gerard Pique were warming down when they were asked to move by Chelsea groundstaff. From the footage, United did seem to be doing some of that warm-down in the box, against PL rules, however there are ways and means to go about pointing it out. Anyway, we’ve yet to determine what really happened next, although what we do know is, whatever it was, it wasn’t exactly a group hug. Now, call me a cynic, but firstly, are our groundstaff really that keen that they needed to be out there working immediately after a game or did the fact we’d just beaten United give them a little extra energy?

Anyway, Evra has been charged with improper conduct, whilst Bethell faces the same charge in addition to a charge of using abusive language aggravated by reference to nationality/race.

Chelsea have appeared quick to defend Bethell, issuing a statement saying “We believe there is no foundation whatsoever to claims that the incident involved comments based on nationality or race. Chelsea FC condemn all forms of discrimination in football and society. Such allegations against our club are extremely serious.”

Obviously, the club would want to distance themselves from anything as vile as racism, and quite rightly so. But bearing in mind Bethell returned to his job immediately after the event, how are the club going to react if the charges are proved?

The whole incident, including Bethell lunging at Evra before being pulled off by security staff, was caught on CCTV. And whilst Bethell later brushed it off as “handbags”, several witness statements, presumably including that of Tevez, Neville and Phelan suggest a racist remark was directed at the left-back.

According to Chelsea, Evra threw the first punch, although Tevez counters that by suggesting Chelsea started it. Tevez stated “During our post-match work, Evra received an insult from a Chelsea worker and my teammates merely demanded an explanation. This was the problem and from that moment these men just wanted to attack Patrice. Obviously it’s normal that we defend our teammate but within a few seconds all the United players were surrounded by stewards. I think the security cameras will show the provocation we received. I have never seen anything like this in my two years in England. We will happily give our version of what happened.”

Following the brawl, The Sun, in its usual subtle way, suggested the 23 year old Millwall supporter “lists drinking and books about hooliganism” among his favourite pastimes. And whilst I’ve always believed in ‘innocent until proven guilty’, what I’d like to know is whether Chelsea will have the courage of their conviction if it’s the latter?




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