LONDON -- Just when it seemed Chelsea's reputation couldn't sink any lower after a controversy-ridden 2012, along came "Ballboygate."
The Football Association's disciplinary body is set to open a fresh file on the English club after winger Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a 17-year-old ball boy while attempting to retrieve the ball toward the end of a League Cup semifinal match against Swansea.
The Belgian winger has apologized to the ball boy -- and will not face criminal charges -- but will be handed a minimum three-match ban for violent conduct, depriving Chelsea of one of its top players. The FA, which was reviewing the incident Thursday, could increase the suspension in "exceptional circumstances."
Worse for the European champions, however, is having face up to further accusations that its millionaire players are out of control, soon after the racism scandals involving John Terry, Ashley Cole and John Obi Mikel that blighted 2012.
"It is an extraordinary incident," former referee Dermot Gallagher said. "There's no defence for that. Someone said it was borne out of frustration but you have to accept it. It was an extreme but you can't have that at a football match."
-- The Associated Press