Uefa to consider punishing Chelsea for fans’ anti-Semitic chants
Club could face partial closure of Stamford Bridge for Europa League ties
Chelsea: may face sanction from football’s authorities over fans’ chants. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty
The governing body is scrutinising reports filed by its officials at the Groupama Arena before deciding whether to open a disciplinary case, with Chelsea having publicly condemned a small section of their travelling support for an anti-Tottenham Hotspur chant which referenced “Yids”.
The incident in Budapest came only four days after Raheem Sterling was allegedly racially abused during Chelsea’s win over Manchester City, with four supporters having been suspended by the club pending further investigations.
Article 14 of Uefa’s regulations state that, if supporters are found guilty of behaviour “that insults the human dignity of a person or group of persons on whatever grounds, including skin colour, race, religion or ethnic origin”, the minimum punishment is the partial closure of their home stadium in a subsequent fixture.
This would be Chelsea’s first offence and a second incident would see them forced to play a match behind closed doors.
Chelsea have made clear that the chant, heard in the opening three minutes of the 2-2 draw in Hungary, “shamed the club” and are braced for Uefa sanction.
They will endeavour to identify those in the 1,273 away support involved with a view to imposing bans from Stamford Bridge – it is unclear whether CCTV coverage at the stadium was extensive enough to pinpoint individuals – but will also offer anyone found guilty the chance to enter an educational programme to learn why the chant is so offensive.
The club, whose owner Roman Abramovich is Jewish, launched a campaign in January to raise awareness and educate about anti-Semitism in football as they seek to change beliefs, behaviour and attitudes.
The hope is that any offenders who acknowledge their errors and go on to demonstrate an understanding as to why they were in the wrong would ultimately be offered a pathway back into supporting the club at Stamford Bridge.
Yet any Uefa sanction would impact directly on Maurizio Sarri’s team in the shorter term.
“If we have to be taught a lesson at Chelsea to improve whatever happens around the world, then I’m happy,” the midfielder Cesc Fàbregas said when asked about the chanting at the Vidi fixture.
“The focus now is on Chelsea for what happened. Unfortunately if we look around carefully all over the world, all sports, all football clubs, we will find things like that.”
On the abuse to which Sterling was subjected last Saturday, Fàbregas added: “The people that did it got caught, they will be punished and taught a big lesson. The quicker we get rid of these people, the better. This is not the real face of Chelsea.”
Even if the police determine there is not enough evidence to pursue criminal convictions against the quartet over the abuse of Sterling, Chelsea’s threshold for offences is lower, meaning bans could remain in place.
Anti-discrimination leaders and Jewish groups have joined Chelsea in condemning Thursday’s chant.
The Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies of British Jews and anti-discrimination group Fare backed the club’s stance.
“This latest incident is a sad indictment of where some people are in their understanding of racism and the impact it can have,” said Piara Powar, executive director of Fare.
“They stare history in the face and think they are somehow exempt from the judgments it will make on their actions.
“We should give a lot of credit to those Chelsea fans who highlighted what was going on at the match on social media or directly to the authorities. The sad fact is that, in recent years, Chelsea have done an incredible amount of work to tackle anti-Semitism, much of it highly innovative and impactful. But there remains throughout football a rump of people who in 2019 will see the political atmosphere as a cover for their own racism and prejudice.”