West Brom's Jay Rodriguez releases statement after being cleared of racial abuse
West Brom striker Jay Rodriguez has released a statement saying his is ready to move on after he was cleared of racially abusing Brighton's Gaetan Bong.
Rodriguez attended a hearing at Wembley on last Wednesday, and after a period of deliberation, the Football Association announced the results on Friday afternoon.
The 26-year-old said, "It has been a difficult and strained period for me and my family because this allegation brought a serious and damaging slur on my character.
"It has been equally difficult to remain silent throughout the FA process but I do wish to express firstly my relief that I have been exonerated and secondly my support for the fight against racism in whatever form it is expressed.
Jay Rodriguez statement in full:
"I have maintained my innocence from the moment Gaetan Bong made the allegation. I bear him no ill but I was disappointed that he chose to publically condemn me on the platforms of open media before the evidence had been presented to an independent tribunal."
Former Albion boss Alan Pardew spoke in Rodriguez’s favour at the hearing and the England international also received character references from Mauricio Pochettino, who he played under at Southampton, and Eddie Howe, who was his manager at Burnley.
Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana, former Albion striker Shane Long, and ex-Southampton team-mates Kelvin Davies and Maya Yoshida also provided character references.
Rodriguez added: "Now that I have been cleared, I would like to emphasise so there can be no doubt that I did not utter the words of which I was accused.
"I did not use any language that alluded to race and I can only repeat my view that Gaetan misheard our exchange during the game.
"I am grateful for the all the colleagues and former managers and coaches who spoke up for me at the hearing.
"I would also like to thank West Brom, my team-mates, the staff and the fans for the fantastic support they have offered me during this unpleasant process.
"Finally I would like to underline my support for the continuing battle of any forms of discrimination.
"There is no place for it in any walk of life and I am relieved and pleased that after an exhaustive, thorough and fair process, I am cleared of this stain on my character and reputation."
It means the Baggies striker escapes a five-match ban for racial abuse, although the FA stressed the complaint made by Bong was in ‘absolute good faith’.