ROME (AP) – Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has denied a Football Association charge of improper conduct following comments he made on Twitter at the end of the John Terry trial.
In the aftermath of last month's trial, when Terry was acquitted of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton, the United defender responded to a Tweet that characterised Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, who was a defence witness, as a "choc-ice".
The term is is commonly understood to mean "black on the outside, white on the inside", and was a reference to Cole's testimony in court, in which he said he never heard Terry make a racist remark to Ferdinand during the match in question at Loftus Road in October.
Ferdinand was charged on Monday and had until 4pm on Thursday to respond to the FA.
A statement issued on the FA's website, www.thefa.com, read: "Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand has denied an FA charge of improper conduct in relation to comments posted on Twitter.
"The allegation is that the player acted in a way which was improper and/or brought the game into disrepute by making comments which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.
"The player has requested a personal hearing."
The FA must now arrange a hearing date knowing, with the new Premier League campaign due to begin on August 18, the matter could easily spill into another season - 10 months after the initial altercation at Loftus Road.
Earlier this week, FA chairman David Bernstein had declared his intention to get tough with any action that brought the game into disrepute, making specific reference to postings on Twitter.
However, at the same Wembley conference, influential Kick it Out anti-racism campaigner Lord Ousley said he was surprised Ferdinand had been charged because he had not instigated the Twitter conversation in the first place.
It is expected this would be a major component of Ferdinand's defence.
Earlier this year, the 33-year-old's Manchester United team-mate Federico Macheda was fined £15,000 and warned about his future conduct after posting a homophobic Tweet.
And this week, Arsenal's Emmanuel Frimpong was fined £6,000 for an anti-Semitic Tweet.