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Firmino cleared of making racist comment

The FA has said:

Following a detailed investigation into an allegation of discriminatory conduct against Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino by Everton’s Mason Holgate, The FA can confirm that it will not be taking any disciplinary action against Firmino.

The decision

Having considered all of the available evidence, we consider it is not sufficient to raise a charge against Firmino. However, we are completely satisfied that the allegation was made in absolute good faith by Holgate and that there is no suggestion of this being an intentionally false or malicious allegation. We continue to take all allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and would encourage all participants who believe that they have been the subject of or witness to discriminatory abuse to report this through the appropriate channels. Holgate and Everton followed the proper process by reporting the matter to the match officials at the time and subsequently to The FA. We receive a significant number of complaints of discrimination in any one season and thoroughly investigate all complaints we receive. Following consideration of all of the evidence received, not all cases will result in a charge being issued.

The investigation

The evidence for the allegation came from Holgate. During a fixture between Liverpool and Everton on 5 January 2018, Holgate alleged that he had heard Firmino use a discriminatory term towards him. On hearing this, Holgate followed correct procedures by immediately alerting the match referee of the allegation, along with other Everton players who were in close proximity. The incident was formally reported to the match officials following the fixture and subsequently reported to The FA. We took statements from a total of 12 players and officials from both teams, the match referee and the fourth official. None of these individuals directly heard the words alleged to have been said by Firmino. Firmino was formally interviewed by The FA and provided an alternative account to the words alleged by Holgate. Firmino stated that he had insulted Holgate in Portuguese, but denied categorically using any discriminatory language towards him. As part of the investigation, The FA sought the assistance of a Brazilian/Portuguese linguistic specialist on the words alleged. In addition to this, we also obtained multiple angles of video footage, including broadcast and unseen footage showing the incident, which was assessed by two independent Portuguese speaking lip reading experts. We appreciate that this has been a difficult process for both parties, and would like to express our thanks to Mason Holgate and Roberto Firmino as well as both clubs for their assistance, professionalism and full cooperation during this investigation.

 

Roberto Firmino has said:

"As difficult as it has been to remain publicly silent, given the serious and damaging nature of what it was claimed I said during the game, I did so to demonstrate my respect for the process and to allow the issue to be investigated in the most thorough way. It is critical for football that tackling racism and all forms of discrimination is taken extremely seriously. As someone who has experienced racist abuse during my life, I know how damaging and hurtful it can be. Now the process is concluded, I would like to place on record, for the avoidance of any doubt, I did not say the word, or a variation of the word, that was claimed and subsequently reported in the media. I did not use any language that referenced race. I did not - and would never - reference a person’s skin colour or culture, by means of insult, during a dispute or an argument. There is no place for discrimination on a football pitch, or anywhere else in life for that matter. I am pleased after exhaustive reviews of all the evidence, in this specific incident, the matter is resolved."

 

Liverpool FC has said:

“We thank Roberto for the manner in which he has conducted himself during this difficult process, acknowledging that being subjected to such a serious allegation for this length of time has been hurtful to him and his family. Both the club and player were in full agreement from the beginning that if an investigation was required it should be a thorough and robust one. Roberto has co-operated fully with the process and shown a willingness to engage and assist throughout, with the only objective being to discover the truth of what happened. We are satisfied that the outcome of the process has exonerated the player of using any racist or discriminatory language.”

 

Everton FC has said:

"The club welcomes the FA's expression of complete satisfaction that the allegation made by our player, Mason Holgate, was done so in absolute good faith, that proper process was followed and that there is no suggestion of malice or dishonesty on Mason's part. In challenging circumstances, the FA has reached its determination and, as a club, we accept this."

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Comments

  • Many fans want Holgate to be punished for false accusations but tbh, it may discourage players from reporting incidents which is definitely what I don't want.  I do think that he should be punished for his push on Firmino. It was an off the ball incident that could have caused injury so is definitely a red card offense that was unpunished.  Whether he accused Firmino to deflect his own actions, we'll never know but the FA should step in for that push.

  • I remember that incident well and don't blame Firmino for his reactiion, the Everton player was completey in the wrong for doing what he did. Totally uncalled for and escaped punishment

  • I agree with DBZ.  Presumably it was simply a case of Holgate mishearing what Firmino said - his Portuguese is probably only as good as mine.  However I was shocked that Holgate didn't get a red card and a severe punishment for pushing Firmino into the crowd, an action that not only endangered the player but also the fans.  I might have accepted that his first push was only a yellow card but he pushed Firmino again when he was already outside the playing area which was reckless in the extreme. While it is quite right that the FA comes down hard on racist language, is violent and dangerous conduct any less of a misdemeanour?

  • To be fair to the FA (it's not often I say that) the investigation was exhaustive and if something had been said they surely would've picked up on it. Firmino can go forward knowing he's been completely cleared and that must mean a lot for the player. The way Holgate reacted at the time suggested he genuinely thought he'd heard a racist comment and if that was the case he was within his rights to report it. I must admit a couple of things seemed strange to me from the start - firstly, Firmino was speaking Portuguese so the chances of Holgate recognising a racist comment were somewhat limited, and secondly, Firmino was stood within inches of the referee so if he didn't hear the comment it's unlikely anyone else did. All the parties involved have reacted well while the investigation has been ongoing and although it's taken some time to conclude the process seems to have worked.

    As for the Holgate push, it should've been punished with a red card at the match but given it was a derby match the referee was letting an awful lot go, too much, I recall. I'm surprised there wasn't retrospective action against Holgate but perhaps the FA didn't want to complicate matters while they were undertaking the sensitive investigation into Firmino. It doesn't make it right but perhaps it's an explanation.

  • I have to be honest, i thought Firmino said something nasty due to holgates reaction but it now seems the opposite, thankfully. Holgate should actually be charged with assault as that's what he done when he pushed Firmino over the hoarding but i suppose we should be happy with the outcome and draw a line under it now.

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