West Brom striker Jay Rodriguez said he is “in disbelief” after the Football Association charged him over his clash with Brighton’s Gaetan Bong.
The one-cap England international has been accused by Bong of using racist language towards him in the Jan. 13 Premier League match at the Hawthorns.
Rodriguez would face a minimum five-match ban if the case against him is proven but the 28-year-old former Burnley and Southampton player believes he should have already been cleared.
He wrote on Twitter: “Absolutely gutted and in disbelief at the situation I find myself in. I 100% deny the false allegation and will take the correct legal advice to prove my innocence.”
Footage shows the pair arguing and bumping into each other, before Rodriguez holds his nose and waves his hand as if to gesture Bong smells.
It is not clear what was said, but Bong immediately complained to referee Martin Atkinson who included the incident in his report.
The FA said on Thursday it had charged Rodriguez with using “abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.”
If the charge is proven, Rodriguez would face suspension as an aggravated breach of FA rule E3. The rules added that “the regulatory commission may increase this suspension depending on any additional aggravating factors present.”
An FA statement read: “Jay Rodriguez has been charged following an incident during the West Bromwich Albion versus Brighton and Hove Albion match on 13 January 2018.
“It is alleged he used abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.”
West Brom released a statement saying they would continue to support the 28-year-old.
The Baggies’ director of football administration Richard Garlick said: “As a club we remain fully supportive and committed to backing Jay throughout this process.”
Cameroonian defender Bong posted a since-deleted comment on his own Twitter feed after the game, saying: “Some words should not be said on a football field and specially not by players Rodriguez words are unforgivable for the man I am!!”
Bong appeared on French television channel SFR Sport to say Rodriguez’s comment was “racist in nature”, and Brighton said their player had the club’s full backing as the FA opened its investigation.
West Brom manager Alan Pardew said after the match he found it “very difficult” to believe that Rodriguez would make a racist comment, adding: “Jay Rodriguez claims that the allegation, whatever the allegation is, is untrue.”