Fernando Forestieri: Sheffield Wednesday forward gets six-match ban for using racist language
Sheffield Wednesday forward Fernando Forestieri has been banned for six matches and fined £25,000 after being found guilty of using racist language.
Forestieri says he will contest the decision of the Football Association's independent regulatory commission.
In March, the 29-year-old was acquitted of racially aggravated harassment and using threatening words or behaviour towards Mansfield's Krystian Pearce.
The incident happened in a pre-season game last year which saw a mass brawl.
Argentina-born ex-Italy youth international Forestieri is free to play pending the outcome of his appeal.
His sanction comes on the day the FA announced it has increased the minimum ban for anyone found guilty of racial abuse from five to six matches for the forthcoming season.
Forestieri 'devastated and disappointed'
"I am devastated and disappointed with the decision of the regulatory commission," Forestieri, who denies using a racially offensive word towards Pearce, said in a statement issued by his club.
"Throughout that period of time, throughout both the criminal proceedings and the FA's disciplinary proceedings, I have consistently and strenuously denied the allegations that have been made against me.
"Whilst I was shocked and saddened to face criminal charges regarding this matter, I was equally happy to be found not guilty of those charges in March 2019 by the criminal court and considered that to be the end of a very distressing time. As I said at the time, I felt vindicated by the decision of the judge.
"To discover I would then have to face an FA charge was devastating. But I truly believed that these erroneous allegations would be dismissed and my good name upheld."
Forestieri added: "The decision goes against everything about the person I am and the person I was brought up to be.
"It is absolutely no comfort to me that, when charging me with misconduct, the FA were very clear that they did not consider me to be racist but instead believed that I had acted in the 'heat of the moment'."
The written reasons in relation to the case state that 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.
But 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 Forestieri guilty.
However, the commission felt that while Forestieri was not guilty to the standard needed for a criminal conviction, there was enough evidence for them to find him in breach of their rules.
"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 commission based their conclusion on a number of factors, including Pearce's immediate reaction to hearing the alleged offensive term and what the commission felt were inconsistencies over Forestieri's claims of switching between speaking Spanish and English.