Sam Kerr pleads not guilty to aggravated harassment charge

Australia international forward Sam Kerr pleaded not guilty to racially aggravated harassment of a police officer, prosecutors in Britain said on Monday.

Kerr, who plays for Chelsea in the Women's Super League, was charged with causing a police officer harassment, alarm or distress during an incident in Twickenham, south west London, on Jan. 30 last year, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The PA news agency in Britain reported that London's Metropolitan Police said the incident involved an officer who was responding to a complaint about a taxi fare.

Kerr denied the charge at a plea and trial preparation hearing at Kingston upon Thames Crown Court on Monday, the Press Association reported.

The Metropolitan Police later confirmed: "Samantha Kerr, 30 (10.09.93) of Richmond was charged via postal charge requisition on 21 January with a racially aggravated offence under Section 4A Public Order Act 1986.

"The charge relates to an incident involving a police officer who was responding to a complaint involving a taxi fare on 30 January 2023 in Twickenham."

Chelsea have not commented officially about the reported incident.

"I understand that the defence is that she didn't intend to cause alarm, harassment or distress to the officer, [her behaviour] did not amount to it and it was not racially aggravated," Judge Judith Elaine Coello was reported to have said to Kerr's barrister, Grace Forbes, in court.

Football Australia released the following statement regarding the appearance: "Football Australia is aware of the legal proceedings involving Sam Kerr in the United Kingdom," an FA statement read. "As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to provide further comment at this time. Our focus remains on supporting all our players, both on and off the field. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide support as appropriate."

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson told reporters in Australia on Tuesday that the federation had not been informed by Kerr of the charges.

"I woke up this morning like everyone else did to the news," Johnson told reporters in Adelaide. "And that is when Football Australia found out about this unsettling event.

"We are trying to get to the bottom of it at the moment.

"We have got our own questions that we'd like to know, we have got to find out what actually happened.

"But we also want to say that there is a process that is under way in the United Kingdom and that process needs to run its course."

The trial is expected to take place in February next year -- with two police officers scheduled to give evidence -- and is due to last four days.

Kerr is one of Australia's best known and most recognisable figures, especially after the Matildas' run to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup in 2023. She is the country's all-time leading scorer in international football with 69 goals from 128 games.

In May she carried the Australian flag at the coronation of King Charles in Westminster Abbey.

She has scored 58 goals for Chelsea in the WSL since 2020 following prolific stints playing for clubs in the U.S. and Australia.

The forward is sidelined after an anterior cruciate ligament injury during a warm-weather training camp with Chelsea women's team in Morocco in January.

Information from The Associated Press and AAP was used in this story.