Football Association chairman David Bernstein has leapt to the defence of referee Howard Webb following a sustained attack on the official in the wake of Mario Balotelli's violent conduct charge.

Manchester City striker Balotelli has until 6pm today to respond to the charge relating to an incident in which he appeared to stamp on Scott Parker's head during Sunday's 3-2 Barclays Premier League win over Tottenham. City assistant manager David Platt said he felt Webb had seen the incident in real time meaning Balotelli should not have been charged.

Bernstein has now issued a strong statement on behalf of the man who refereed the last World Cup final, saying: "Howard Webb is a fantastic referee and a great ambassador for the sport. His ability and integrity are beyond question."

The player's agent, Mino Raiola, had gone far further in his criticism, accusing Webb of acting like a "coward" and alleging the Yorkshireman changed his mind over the incident once Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has voiced his dismay in the aftermath of his side's defeat, when Balotelli scored the match-winning penalty in stoppage time.

Bernstein added: "[Webb] has the utmost respect from within football in England and around the world.

"That could not have been demonstrated more clearly than in 2010, when he was chosen to referee the UEFA Champions League final and the FIFA World Cup final, and this summer he has been selected for UEFA Euro 2012.

"We all have a duty to respect our referees. To question their integrity or imply anything other than total impartiality is reckless and unfounded.

"It harms the perception and treatment of referees at every level of football, and we must not allow that climate to exist."

It is widely anticipated Balotelli will accept his ban, triggering a four-match suspension and ruling him out of Manchester City's Carling Cup semi-final with Liverpool at Anfield.

Source: PA