London - Chelsea went public for the first time on Tuesday with detailed racial abuse allegations against a referee, insisting there was no misunderstanding and that its players heard Mark Clattenburg use the word "monkey" during an English Premier League match.
Chairperson Bruce Buck opted to end Chelsea's public silence on the claims that raises new concerns about soccer's fight against racism despite ongoing investigations by the English Football Association and police into the events during last month's match against Manchester United.
The European champions have been criticised for lodging a complaint with the FA while still backing captain John Terry, who has just served a four-match ban for racially abusing an opponent.
But Buck said in an interview with the London Evening Standard that Chelsea had a duty to report the allegations after black midfielders John Obi Mikel and Ramires said they heard the offending word.
"Suppose we had tried to sweep this under the rug and said to the various players, 'Look, it's not a big deal and the press are going to be all over us, maybe you want to reconsider,'" Buck was quoted as saying in Tuesday's edition of the paper. "If that had leaked out, we would've really been crucified."
Buck is sure the allegations are not baseless, amid suggestions the players might have misheard Clattenburg.
"I spoke to the players involved, either because they were allegedly the recipient of that abuse or had heard it, three separate times," the American lawyer said. "I asked them if they could be mistaken. I asked them if they might have heard 'Mikel' instead of 'monkey.' I thought I had covered that base.
"Looking into the players' eyes, I could see they were unhappy but no player or staff demanded that we file a complaint. They gave us their statements. The decision was made by us, the Chelsea management."
The decision was taken without considering how it would be connected to Terry's ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand last year yet still retaining the captaincy.
"The press seem to juxtapose 'our support' of John Terry and what's going on here, and looking at us as being a bit hypocritical," Buck said. "We have to divorce the John Terry situation from this. From our perspective, the latest situation was pretty straightforward.
"We have an obligation to report what may be misconduct. We did that, in good faith and not maliciously."
Chelsea's complaint against Clattenburg has been criticised by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who said he doesn't believe the allegations. United won the match at Stamford Bridge 3-2 with Javier Hernandez scoring from an offside position after Chelsea duo Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres had been sent off.
"The reaction has been very unfair," Buck said. "We weren't interested in any confrontation with the referee or anybody else, had no thoughts of revenge on the referee. He made two obvious mistakes (sending Torres off and allowing Hernandez's goal) which changed the tide.
"I felt we had the moral high ground, so I didn't really feel that bad about the defeat or have that feeling in my stomach."
Clattenburg has not refereed since the allegations arose, although he resumed training on Monday with other topflight officials.
A decision is set to be made this week about whether the FA will charge Clattenburg. The police investigation was prompted by a complaint by the Society of Black Lawyers.