Bong complained of racial abuse, saying he was “100 per cent certain” Rodriguez said: “You’re black and you stink.” Rodriguez denied the accusation, insisting he had said: “Breath f*****g stinks.”
An FA hearing found Bong’s claim “could not be proven” as the case boiled down to one player’s word against another’s. It added that it was “completely satisfied” Bong’s complaint had been made in “absolute good faith”, and the full-back’s manager was pleased with the wording of the statement, despite the inconclusive result.
“We were disappointed with the outcome,” said Hughton. “But the process by the FA and communication from the FA was excellent, so certainly no problem with that. I think the wording from both statements, by the FA and the committee that dealt with it, says the right things.
“Everybody is going to write it how they want to write it. In what I have read there are particular wordings from both statements that it certainly wasn’t improper for him to make the accusation and from both parties it’s not a question of not believing what he said, it’s just a question of proving it.”
Bong, who started Brighton’s 3-2 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday, released a statement reasserting his conviction over what was said, adding: “Mr Rodriguez has apologised and this is already positive.”
Hughton said: “You have only got to read Gaetan’s reply on Twitter. That shows the individual that he is. He’s a very strong individual, very disciplined individual. You can see that from his own reply and he will look to put this behind him and concentrate on what will be a very tough end of season.”
Speaking after West Brom’s 1-0 over Manchester United on Sunday, in which he scored the winning goal, Rodriguez said he was glad to put the case behind him.
“It’s been horrendous for me and my family,” he said. “I’m a great believer that the truth always comes out. It was a massive weight off my shoulders and my family. For me anything that affects my family hurts me so deep. Something as serious as this, it’s not nice.”