The “consistent evidence” put forward by Giuseppe Bellusci led an FA disciplinary commission to clear the Leeds United defender of racially abusing Cameron Jerome, according to the panel’s written judgement.
In a document published by the Football Association this morning, the three-man commission outlined their reasons for rejecting allegations that Bellusci aimed a racial slur at Jerome during a Championship game between Leeds and Norwich City at Carrow Road in October.
A misconduct charge brought against Bellusci by the FA was dismissed on February 6, almost three months after the alleged incident occurred, but today’s publication has explained in detail the claim made by Jerome and the crux of Bellusci’s defence.
The 25-year-old Italian was accused of calling Jerome a “negro”, a charge which would have landed Bellusci with a minimum five-game ban if the FA’s commission had found him guilty.
Bellusci was also alleged to have made an ‘aggravate breach’ - using a racist term more than once - but the panel accepted his argument that he said the word ‘nero’, the Italian term for black, in threatening to give Jerome “a black eye”.
The pair were involved in a spat midway through the first half of Leeds 1-1 draw at Carrow Road on October 21, prompting Jerome to lodge a complaint with match referee Mark Clattenburg.
The FA commission heard that Bellusci told Jerome “ti faccio un’occhio nero, pezzo di merda”, an Italian phrase which translates as “I will give you a black eye you piece of s**t.”
Jerome’s version of Bellusci’s remarks differed, alleging the repeated use of the word ‘negro’, but the commission’s findings said the striker’s “understanding of Italian was much more shaky and incomplete than the sense conveyed by his initial reporting to the match officials.”
It added: “Mr Jerome had learned some ‘choice’ Italian words during his time at Cardiff City from an Italian player whom he befriended.
“Mr Bellusci has been consistent throughout in his evidence as to the words used by him and that he said the word ‘nero’ only once in a particular context. He maintained that case during his evidence before the commission.”
The report concluded: “Mr Jerome’s evidence has been inconsistent in certain material respects which inevitably have an adverse affect on the reliability of his evidence as a whole.
“Accordingly, where their recollections differ, the commission prefers the consistent evidence of Mr Bellusci to that of Mr Jerome, specifically in relation to the word that forms the basis of the alleged aggravated breach.
“On the balance of probabilities we find that Mr Bellusci used the word ‘nero’ once, in the context that he claims, and that Mr Jerome misheard or misinterpreted what was said as ‘negro’. Once that misapprehension was planted in his mind, Mr Jerome’s reaction to it was entirely understandable.
“We therefore dismiss the charge in its entirety.”
According to the findings, Bellusci’s evidence was strengthened further by the fact that he told a member of United’s staff that he had threatened to give Jerome a black eye before he became aware of the precise nature of Jerome’s allegations.
The report said: “Any suggestion that Mr Bellusci has used the word ‘nero’ in order to ‘manufacture’ a case to fit in with ‘negro’ is undermined by the timing of his reporting to a Leeds’ official what he claims to have said, which preceded him first becoming aware of the racially abusive word that he was alleged to have used.”
The commission, however, absolved Jerome of acting maliciously in making allegations against Bellusci, saying: “The commission reiterates that we found Mr Jerome to be a truthful witness who honestly believed that he had been racially abused. He may well continue to do so.”
The three-man panel which cleared Bellusci was made up of barrister and chairman Craig Moore and FA representatives Keith Allen and Peter Clayton.