West Ham and Millwall have been cleared of failing to prevent racist behaviour by fans despite strikers Carlton Cole and Jason Price claiming that they were subjected to monkey chants during the riotous fixture between the sides last August.
The FA found the charges to be 'unproven' and refused to comment on the commission's decision concerning the alleged racist behaviour of fans. They did find West Ham guilty of two charges relating to the crowd trouble which marred the CarlingCup tie with the south Londoners.
League One Millwall were cleared of all charges. England striker Cole, 26, and Millwall centre forward Price, 32, will have to wait until the full findings of the disciplinary hearing are published to discover why the charges were unproven. The pair appeared very clear as to what they heard from the stands at Upton Park on August 25.
After the 3-1 extra-time victory, which was marred by riots outside the stadium and fighting within it, Cole said: 'Yeah, I heard it, but it's football, you know. I know I'm not a monkey. I might be as strong as a gorilla but I'm not a monkey. That's life, isn't it?'
West Ham will learn their punishment tomorrow after being found guilty of failing toensure their supporters refrained from violent , threatening, obscene and pro-vocative behaviour, and failing to ensure their supporters did not enter the field of play.
A hefty fine is the most likely outcome although the extreme sanction of forcing the Barclays Premier League side to play behind closed doors is open to the FA.
The Hammers maintain they did all they could to prevent the crowd trouble. Once thepunishment is handed out they will have the right of appeal. The violent clashes led to 64 arrests and the stabbing of a Millwall fan outside Upton Park and there were pitch invasions during the match.
Millwall chief executive Andy Ambler was understandably delighted the south Londonclub had been cleared of any wrongdoing, claiming the decision vindicated their vigorous defence against the charges.
'That's life': But Cole insists he was racially abused by Millwall fans at Upton Park
'Millwall FC welcomes the verdict in respect of our club as we have always maintainedthat we were innocent of the charges,' said Ambler.
Meanwhile, the West Ham takeover saga took yet another twist last night amid reports that Cagliari president Massimo Cellino is ready to bid £60m for West Ham and take on a substantial amount of the club's debt, which is believed to be about £80m. He is quoted in the Italian press as saying: 'I want to save the team.'
Such an offer could prove tempting to West Ham's owner CB Holding, whose major stake holder is stricken Icelandic bank Straumur.
The news of Cellino's interest will please West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola as Cagliari is the club where he ended his playing days. Cellino, 54, has made no secret of his admiration for Zola.
Rival bidder InterMarket claimed yesterday they remain the preferred choice, despitecompetition from Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, former Birmingham owners David Gold and David Sullivan and now Cellino. Fernandes is also understood to be in the country trying to finalise a deal.
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