The Football Association will continue to review video footage of Eden Hazard's clash with a ballboy late on in Wednesday's Capital One Cup semi-final at the Liberty Stadium with at least one camera angle appearing to show the Belgian making contact only with the ball rather than the grounded teenager.
Hazard, whose reaction has prompted telephone calls of complaint to South Wales police and criticism from the Belgian Football Federation, was sent off by the referee, Chris Foy, for violent conduct after losing patience when the ballboy, Charlie Morgan, refused to hand over the ball. The player faces an automatic three-match ban and, while Chelsea are not expected to appeal against the severity of that sanction, the FA retains the power to add to the suspension if it deems it insufficient given the nature of the offence.
Any increased ban could be challenged by Chelsea, with the club then entitled to offer evidence on their player's behalf to a convened disciplinary commission. South Wales police had initially interviewed the 17-year-old Morgan, son of the Swansea director and millionaire hotel owner Martin Morgan, after the match in the presence of his father and were informed he did not wish to make a formal complaint. However, they have since confirmed that three telephone calls "from members of the public living in Sussex, Kent and west Wales are being followed up". It was a complaint emailed by an off-duty police officer that prompted an investigation into John Terry over the Anton Ferdinand affair.
The FA's disciplinary department spent Thursday scrutinising footage of the 78th-minute flashpoint, which occurred as Hazard attempted to retrieve the ball behind the byline with Swansea having been awarded a goal-kick. There was a minor tussle between the midfielder and Morgan, who duly flopped down on the loose ball with the Chelsea player's patience eventually snapping as he attempted to kick it free from under the teenager, who rolled over clutching his ribs. At least one camera angle suggests Hazard kicked only the ball, backing up the 22-year-old's post-match statement. While he subsequently apologised for becoming embroiled in the spat, he was clearly shocked at being dismissed for the first time in his professional career.
Chelsea, who sought to deal with the incident swiftly after the final whistle and invited Morgan into the away dressing room for Hazard to issue his apology, indicated after the game they would deal with the matter "internally", but there remains the possibility Hazard escapes a club fine. Swansea, for their part, will not face FA charges for the conduct of the ballboy, who had tweeted prior to kick-off suggesting he intended to waste time, with the governing body satisfied that such issues boil down to the judgment of referees.
The Capital One Cup finalists are adamant their ballboys were not under instructions to time-waste in the second leg of the semi-final, which Swansea had begun 2-0 up on aggregate. "There was no agenda, absolutely not," said Leigh Dineen, Swansea's vice-chairman. "Stoke, a few years ago, would get the ballboy to wipe the ball down for a long throw and that was something the ballboys were obviously told to do. But certainly we don't line up the ballboys and ask them to waste time. Definitely not."
Neither will Swansea be disciplining Morgan, who has worked as a ballboy at the club for six years and was drafted in at short notice on Wednesday because a colleague had been unable to attend as a result of the poor weather. His part in the matter has drawn stinging criticism from current and former players but there has been an acceptance that Hazard, too, should not have reacted as he did.
"It's unfortunate and, of course, it's not something we are proud of," said Steven Martens, the chief executive of the Belgian FA. "No football authority or person interested in football likes to see acts of violence or lack of respect and this is what happened. It might have happened in the heat of the fire but professionals are expected to be able to control themselves. They have to be able to control their emotions and when they don't that's unpleasant in general. But Eden is more than intelligent enough to understand that this is going to be a lesson learned for him. All of us make mistakes in life."
Those sentiments were echoed by Gordon Taylor, the chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association. "You can't take the law into your own hands," he added. "He lost his head, his actions were unacceptable and the referee had no alternative. He made the correct decision but you do not want people to be hung, drawn and quartered for things that happen in the heat of the moment."