Sheffield Wednesday writer Dom Howson's take on Fernando Forestieri's FA punishment

Proven innocent in a court of law, found guilty by the Football Association.

Thursday, 1st August 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 1st August 2019, 7:00 am
Fernando Forestieri was involved in a heated altercation with Mansfield defender Krystian Pearce in last summer's pre-season friendly

It was in March that Owls star Fernando Forestieri was acquitted at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court of racially abusing Stags defender Krystian Pearce during a pre-season friendly in 2018.

But a criminal court and FA operate on different standards of proof. In law, the prosecution has to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that the offence occurred.

During Forestieri's criminal trial, the judge said he was "satisfied beyond any doubt" that Pearce "was of the view" he had been racially abused last summer.

However, as there was no corroborating evidence aside from Pearce's claim and Forestieri's denial, the judge had "to accept it is possible, albeit it is in my judgment unlikely, that Mr Pearce was mistaken," and he could not find the Argentine-born forward guilty.

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But in the case of an FA hearing, a decision is made based "on the balance of probability" and the independent regulatory commission deemed that the case against Forestieri was sufficient to proceed.

He was charged in June and has been banned for six matches and fined £25,000 after being found guilty by the commission of using racist language, although he is appealing the ruling. He is free to play until the hearing is completed.

"The higher standard of proof in criminal proceedings means an acquittal does not necessarily and ordinarily will not equate to a finding that the participant did not commit the misconduct in question," the full written report into Forestieri's hearing read.

The governing body's lengthy report also stated Forestieri is alleged to have called Pearce a 'n*****' during the confrontation. Forestieri has denied that claim, but he admitted he used other abusive Spanish words towards Pearce.

The commission based their verdict on a number of factors, including Pearce's immediate reaction to hearing the alleged offensive term. They also felt there were inconsistencies over Forestieri's claims of switching between speaking Spanish and English during the heated confrontation.

Why a six-match ban? Well, Forestieri's case was tried under last season's regulations when five matches was the minimum suspension for aggravated breaches.

But Forestieri is believed to have been handed an extra match because of the words he is alleged to have used in the heat of the battle and because the incident sparked a mass brawl at the One Call Stadium.

The 29-year-old has already served a three-match suspension for misconduct relating to the brawl and was also fined £25,000.

What must be questioned is how long the case has taken to get to this point. Given Forestieri was cleared of racially aggravated harassment in criminal proceedings over five months ago, it is frankly ridiculous that it has dragged on this long.

Yes, it is a very serious allegation. Yes, the FA were duty-bound to investigate it as part of their commitment to tackling racism.

But it should not have taken the governing body until three days before the start of the 2019/20 season to dish out yet another punishment to Forestieri.