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    Jay Rodriguez cleared of racial abuse charge against Gaetan Bong

    Joe Jones

    West Bromwich Albion striker Jay Rodriguez has been cleared over his charge of racial abuse after an independent panel ruled that Gaetan Bong's allegations were not proven.

    Alan Pardew, sacked as West Brom manager less than two weeks ago, defended Rodriguez in front of a three-man independent tribunal at Wembley against an allegation that the forward racially abused Brighton defender Bong in a match at The Hawthorns on January 13.

    Rodriguez was accused of telling Bong 'you're black and you stink' during a row in the match, but the former maintained that he said 'your breath stinks' - he had pinched his nose and wafted his hand across his face to suggest a bad smell.

    Rodriguez faced a five-match ban if found guilty of breaching FA rule E3, which concerns player behaviour and cites 'ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality' as aggravating factors.

    But after deliberating for two days an independent regulatory commission 'determined that on the balance of probabilities the allegation was not proven'.

    The 28-year-old had strenuously denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegation of a racial element '100 per cent false' and appointed leading lawyers and lip readers in a bid to clear his name.

    The three-person commission panel said: "A charge of discriminatory misconduct against West Bromwich Albion's Jay Rodriguez has been found not proven following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing.

    "It was alleged that during the game against Brighton & Hove Albion on 13 January 2018, the player used abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.

    "Rodriguez denied the charge and requested a personal hearing which took place at Wembley Stadium.

    "Having considered all the evidence, the Independent Regulatory Commission determined that on the balance of probabilities the allegation was not proven."

    The FA said: "The FA wishes to stress that there has been no suggestion by any party involved in this case that this was a malicious or fabricated complaint. The FA is completely satisfied that this was a complaint made in absolute good faith.

    "The FA takes all allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and continues to encourage all participants who believe that they have been the subject of or witness to discriminatory abuse to report this through the appropriate channels.

    "The FA would like to express its full thanks to all parties for their full cooperation during the disciplinary process."

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