Leeds United defender Giuseppe Bellusci has been cleared of racially abusing Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome.
The Italian centre-back was found not guilty by a Football Association disciplinary commission at a hearing near Nottingham yesterday.
Jerome accused Bellusci of making a racist slur during a 1-1 draw between Leeds and Norwich at Carrow Road in October.
Bellusci consistently denied the charge and he attended yesterday’s hearing in person as United fought his case.
The 26-year-old - a summer signing from Catania - was facing a minimum five-game ban if found guilty of the offence but submissions made on his behalf by legal firm Brandsmiths were accepted by the FA’s commission.
Bellusci is one game into a two-match ban incurred after his red card against Bournemouth last month but he will be free to return for Tuesday’s Championship match away at Reading.
In a statement released today, the FA said: “Leeds United defender Giuseppe Bellusci has had an FA charge against him found not proven by an independent regulatory commission.
“It was alleged that during the Norwich City versus Leeds United fixture on October 21, 2014, Mr Bellusci used abusive and/or insulting words towards opponent Cameron Jerome contrary to Rule E3(1).
“It was further alleged that this breach of Rule E3(1) was an “aggravated breach” pursuant to Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.
“Mr Bellusci had denied the charge and requested a personal hearing.”
United issued a statement saying: “Leeds United is pleased to note the decision of the FA disciplinary panel to clear our defender, Giuseppe Bellusci, of all charges of racism made against him during the away game against Norwich City.
“Giuseppe has made it clear from the moment the incident happened that he did not use racist language and the FA commission has found that to be the case.
“Leeds United is a fully inclusive organisation and through the efforts of the Leeds United Foundation aims to work with every aspect of our community by celebrating diversity and recognising cultural differences.”
Norwich said they were “deeply disappointed” by the FA’s decision.
“In its verdict, the commission commented that Cameron Jerome was a truthful and honest witness throughout the long investigation into the incident,” a Norwich statement read.
“Norwich City fully supports Cameron, who genuinely believed he was on the receiving end of unacceptable language on the field of play, reported it in the correct manner to the match officials and has conducted himself with dignity throughout the months since the incident.”
Jerome told Norwich’s official website: “I heard a comment made to me which was totally unacceptable during the game against Leeds and I reported it straight away to the referee.
“I’m glad the commission has said that they believe I truthfully reported what I genuinely believe I heard.
“While I’m obviously disappointed with the not proven verdict, now I’m just focussing as always on my next game for Norwich City. But I will always continue to report anything unacceptable I hear said to me on or off the pitch and I would certainly encourage any other players in a similar situation to do so as well.”