Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey’s five-game racial abuse ban was upheld on the strength of “clear and compelling” evidence by three Wolves players.
Dominic Iorfa, Matt Doherty and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson all testified against Shelvey, 24, regarding comments made to Morocco midfielder Romain Saiss.
Their evidence confirmed that Shelvey had referred to Saiss’ ethnic origin.
There were also “serious concerns” over the credibility of Shelvey’s evidence.
England international Shelvey has chosen not to appeal against his fine and ban but maintains he did not use racially abusive language.
The incident between Shelvey and Saiss, 26, in Newcastle’s 2-0 home Championship defeat by Wolves in September was started by the dismissal of Magpies midfielder Vurnon Anita.
- Newcastle striker Dwight Gayle said Saiss held up an imaginary card to the referee relating to the Anita incident which annoyed him.
- Between them, all three Wolves players said they heard Shelvey make reference to “Arab”, “Arabic” and “Moroccan” in comments made to Saiss, as well as using expletives.
- Shelvey said his comments – which he claimed did not include reference to origin or race but did refer to “smelly breath” – were a reaction to hearing a reference to his bald head, caused by childhood Alopecia.
- The player, who joined Newcastle from Swansea in January 2016, also admitted in interview that he had referred to defender Iorfa as a “peasant” and made boastful comments relating to salary, described as “cashing off” another player.
- Shelvey said the above exchange related to abusive comments from Iorfa, who rejected he had made those comments and had confronted Shelvey about what he had said to Saiss.
What other evidence was there?
The evidence presented by Wolves came from the three players, as well as assistant coach Rob Edwards, team doctor Matthew Perry and ex-coach Andrea Butti.
Shelvey called on team-mates Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Serbia forward, for his defence.
- Under cross examinations, all three Wolves players said they were sure they had heard comments referring to ethnicity.
- Dr Perry produced handwritten notes as statements from the players, which were taken shortly after the game in the dressing room.
- Jim Sturman QC alleged that the three Wolves players had been mistaken – “heard what they feared to hear” – and that cross-contamination from the separate accounts may have affected the recollection.
- He also said the noise levels at St James’ Park might have led to mistakenly hearing reference to ethnicity rather than Shelvey’s “smelly breath’ admission.
- Shelvey accepted under cross-examination he had not responded initially to the card gesture, only doing so after conversation with Gayle.
- He denied he knew of Saiss’ ethnicity or nationality.
- Gayle said he had heard reference to baldness shouted out, but did not know the origin of the comment.
The independent panel came down on the side of the Football Association, decided the organisation had “discharged its burden of proof on the balance of probabilities”, and found Shelvey guilty.
- The panel acknowledged that discrepancies within the various pieces of evidence was likely given the environment of a football ground mid-game, with crowd noise.
- They also confirmed Shelvey had become involved after speaking to Gayle, and that there was a discrepancy between his statement and the video evidence.
- There was serious concern regarding “the reliability of his evidence when we come to consider what words he used”.
- In addition the panel said the evidence of the three main witnesses from Wolves was “clearly to be preferred”.
- Evidence from the Wolves party was given with “conviction and openness” and “what they believed they heard was clear and compelling”.
- The panel also said Shelvey’s witnesses “did not really support his defence to any significant degree”.
Shelvey has been suspended for five games, required to pay £100,000, attend an FA education course, pay the costs of the hearing and was warned about his future conduct.
He had already confirmed he would not be appealing against the suspension, which starts with the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on 26 December.