Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino has been cleared by the Football Association after an allegation he racially abused Everton defender Mason Holgate.

But the governing body has dismissed suggestions Holgate made the claim in anything but good faith, while also explaining why it took so long to reach a decision.

The FA spent more than six weeks investigating allegations Firmino racially abused Holgate during the FA Cup third round showdown between the Merseyside rivals at Anfield on January 5.

Having been shoved into the crowd by the Blues player during a challenge, an unhappy Firmino confronted his opponent and was captured on camera shouting at Holgate in Portuguese.

An instantly-outraged Holgate was seen complaining to referee Bobby Madley that he had been racially abused, with the incident later included in the referee’s official report.

Now, almost 50 days after the flashpoint, the FA said interviews with 12 players and officials from both teams revealed nobody directly heard the words alleged to have been said by the Liverpool man.

Linguistic specialists and unseen footage further highlighted Firmino had no case to answer, although the FA stressed Holgate’s allegation was not intentionally malicious.

In a statement explaining their decision, they said: “Having considered all of the available evidence, we consider it is not sufficient to raise a charge against Firmino.



Roberto Firmino was first pushed into the crowd by Mason Holgate

“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.”

Firmino admitted insulting Holgate in Portuguese but, in a statement, vehemently denied he had used any racist language.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The club response

Everton released a statement backing Holgate while accepting the outcome of the disciplinary procedure.

“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,” it read.

“The club also welcomes the FA’s commitment to continue to treat all allegations of a discriminatory nature with extreme seriousness. In challenging circumstances, the FA has reached its determination and, as a club, we accept this.”



Roberto Firmino then raced to confront Mason Holgate
Roberto Firmino then raced to confront Mason Holgate

Liverpool admitted the length of the investigation had been “hurtful” to Firmino while praising the player’s behaviour during the last six weeks.

“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.”

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