Following a thorough investigation, the Football Association has cleared Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino of racially abusing Everton’s Mason Holgate due to insufficient evidence.
The decision has arrived 47 days after the on-field incident as the governing body prioritised a rigorous inspection of the flashpoint that occurred in the third round of the FA Cup on January 5, rather than a swift conclusion.
The Everton defender raised the claim during a verbal on-pitch alteration with the Brazil international, whom he had just shoved into the advertising hoardings in his side’s 2-1 defeat at Anfield.
Firmino has responded to the judgement, saying: "I would like to place on record, for the avoidance of any doubt, I did not say the word, or a variation of the word, that was claimed and subsequently reported in the media. I did not use any language that referenced race.
"I did not - and would never - reference a person’s skin colour or culture, by means of insult, during a dispute or an argument.
"There is no place for discrimination on a football pitch, or anywhere else in life for that matter.
"I am pleased after exhaustive reviews of all the evidence, in this specific incident, the matter is resolved."
The finding of insufficient evidence was coupled with the FA being “completely satisfied that the allegation was made in absolute good faith by Holgate and that there is no suggestion of this being an intentionally false or malicious allegation,” according to a statement.
On the process, it further read: “During a fixture between Liverpool and Everton on 5 January 2018, Holgate alleged that he had heard Firmino use a discriminatory term towards him.
“On hearing this, Holgate followed correct procedures by immediately alerting the match referee of the allegation, along with other Everton players who were in close proximity. The incident was formally reported to the match officials following the fixture and subsequently reported to The FA.
“We took statements from a total of 12 players and officials from both teams, the match referee and the fourth official. None of these individuals directly heard the words alleged to have been said by Firmino.
“Firmino was formally interviewed by The FA and provided an alternative account to the words alleged by Holgate. Firmino stated that he had insulted Holgate in Portuguese, but denied categorically using any discriminatory language towards him.
"As part of the investigation, The FA sought the assistance of a Brazilian/Portuguese linguistic specialist on the words alleged. In addition to this, we also obtained multiple angles of video footage, including broadcast and unseen footage showing the incident, which was assessed by two independent Portuguese speaking lip reading experts. The evidence obtained from the experts did not support the allegation.
“We appreciate that this has been a difficult process for both parties, and would like to express our thanks to Mason Holgate and Roberto Firmino as well as both clubs for their assistance, professionalism and full cooperation during this investigation.”