The Jonson Clarke-Harris case including mitigation from the player and Peterborough United, how the FA disciplinary committee reached its verdict and why the four-game ban could have been even longer

Jonson Clarke-Harris must sit out three more matches. Photo: Joe Dent.Jonson Clarke-Harris must sit out three more matches. Photo: Joe Dent.
Jonson Clarke-Harris must sit out three more matches. Photo: Joe Dent.
The reasons for Posh forward Jonson Clarke-Harris’ four-match ban have been revealed and it turns out he could have faced a longer ban.

Clarke-Harris was charged in August and found guilty in September for an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3, due to tweets he sent between October 27 2012 and March 6 2013.

The tweets were deemed to have included insulting/abusive language, which ‘brought the game into disrepute’ and made reference to sexual orientation.

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The papers now released by the FA reveal the tweets included the repeated use of a derogotary slang term.

In the written reasons, published by the FA on their website, it states that a player found guilty of an aggravated rule breach will face an immediate suspension of between six and 12 matches before mitigation.

Such mitigating factors can include how long ago the offence took place, the age of the participant at the time and if the defendant showed no genuine intent to offend/could not reasonably have known that offence would be caused. Clarke-Harris did not request a personal hearing into the charges, but submitted a statement, which was backed up by a letter of support from club secretary Liz Elsom. The club even tried to appeal to the FA not to ban Clarke-Harris as he was, and still is, the club’s only fit striker.

In his statement, Clarke-Harris said: “I admit the charges of misconduct in respect of the breaches of FA Rule E3, relating to posts made on my personal Twitter account, between 27 October 2012 and 6 March 2013. I would like The FA to be aware that I deeply regret any offence which may have been caused by my tweets during the aforementioned period.

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“The tweets were meant as ‘inoffensive banter’ directed towards teammates, who I am sure would attest that no offence was drawn by them. However, I entirely understand that the language used could be deemed to be discriminatory and whilst that was not my intention on posting, I acknowledge the inappropriateness of the tweets.

“Whilst I do not condone the language used, the posts were made when I was a very immature 18-year-old, and I can assure The FA that they are not reflective of the person or the player which I am today. I would like to apologise for my behaviour and to anyone who has taken offence at my historic actions.

“I am aware of the need for professional footballers to be a positive role model in modern football and I am appreciative that whilst my previous behaviour on this one occasion hasn’t reflected this, I am very active in ensuring that I present myself in this way currently and moving forward.”

The club’s letter of support read: “We write on behalf of our registered player, Jonson Clarke-Harris relating to the misconduct charges in respect of breaches of FA Rule E3, which have been brought against him. We understand that the player has admitted the charges.

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“Whilst we have not been requested for observations on the matter, we would like to advise The FA that we have never witnessed any behaviour of the player which would constitute a breach of FA Rule E3 and entirely accept the player’s account that his past actions are not reflective of the person he is today.

“Notwithstanding the mitigation points supplied by the player to The FA directly, we would also like to make The FA aware of the fact that the player is currently the club’s only fit striker, and in the event that the player were to receive a ban for his past actions, the club would have limited options available to it. We consider that if the player were to be sanctioned, then a fine would be appropriate. We would also be supportive of education for the player and can confirm that the club would be happy to assist in facilitating such, if required.”

The FA praised Clarke-Harris for the fact that he did not try to deny using the words and that he gave a full and frank admission and said they considered the seriousness of the offence low when the length of time since the offences and the player’s previous exemplary disciplinary record was taken into account. This meant that the commission took a starting point on five matches, but reduced it to four because of the mitigation.

He was also fined £5300, which must be paid within 30 days or else it will increase by 25 percent and he must also attend an education course.

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The club decided to abandon its appeal after being served with the written reasons and the ban began on Saturday (October 2), the day of the game against Bristol City. He will also miss the Championship matches against Middlesbrough, Hull and QPR.

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