Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has been charged with violent conduct by the English Football Association following an incident involving a Swansea City ball boy in a Capital One Cup match, according to the FA's official site:
It is alleged that Hazard’s behavior in relation to a Swansea City ball boy, for which the player was dismissed in the 78th minute, constituted violent conduct whereby the standard punishment that would otherwise apply was clearly insufficient.
UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 11:50 a.m. EST by Sam Westmoreland
The FA's sentence has come down, and to the surprise of many parties involved, Hazard's three-match ban, the standard punishment for violent conduct, has not been increased. Per the FA's official report:
Following a hearing earlier today [Thursday 31 January 2013], an independent regulatory commission was of the opinion the existing three-match sanction for this offence was sufficient.
The FA alleged that Hazard’s behaviour in relation to a Swansea City ball boy, for which the player was dismissed in the 78th minute, constituted violent conduct whereby the standard punishment that would otherwise apply was clearly insufficient.
The player denied the charge and the matter was dealt with at a non-personal hearing.
This has to be good news for Chelsea fans, as well as embattled manager Rafa Benitez, who could use the Belgian's playmaking on the offensive end again. As it stands, the Blues will face an uphill battle in their next two matches, against Newcastle at St. James Park and at home against Wigan. But, the Blues have to be excited not to be losing Hazard for more than a couple of games going forward.
Sam Wallace of The Independent reports that the standard ban for this type of action would be three matches, but the FA is going to seek a longer punishment for Hazard.
FA say standard three match ban for Eden Hazard 'clearly insufficient' & will push for longer ban— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) January 25, 2013
This all stems from a bizarre incident late in Wednesday's clash. With Chelsea needing two goals, Hazard attempted to retrieve the ball to restart play, but the ball boy was slow to respond.
As Hazard attempted to force the ball free, he caused a scene and appeared to strike the ball boy out of frustration. He was shown a red card for the incident, and Chelsea's rally fell short, allowing Swansea to advance.
It's unclear exactly how long of a suspension the FA will seek, but it's clearly taking this situation very seriously. Whether or not Hazard actually meant to strike the ball boy is still unknown, though Hazard himself has denied any malicious intent, issuing an apology on Thursday:
"The boy put his whole body onto the ball and I was just trying to kick the ball and I think I kicked the ball and not the boy. I apologise," Hazard told Chelsea TV.
"The ball boy came in the changing room and we had a quick chat and I apologised and the boy apologised as well, and it is over. Sorry."
How long should Hazard be banned?
The Belgium international has been one of Chelsea's most consistent performers this season, tallying six goals and six assists in Premier League play. If he's forced to miss an extended period of time, his presence in the lineup would be sorely missed.
Though Hazard is pleading innocence in this case, it sounds like he will be spending at least some time on the sideline.