Chelsea fans in court over Paris Metro racism allegations

LONDON (AFP) - Five men appeared in court in London on Wednesday in connection with the racist abuse of a black man prior to a Champions League game in Paris last month.

The five, who are aged between 20 and 50 and include a former policeman, face bans of three to five years from football stadiums if the case against them is proven.

The hearing in the civil case at Waltham Forest Magistrates' Court, which was adjourned until July, took place in a small room packed with media.

Lawyers for the five, who have already been temporarily banned from Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground, said they would contest the wider interdictions requested by London police.

Chelsea fans were filmed preventing the man, known as Souleymane S., from boarding a Metro train and singing racist songs before their Champions League last 16 first-leg match against Paris Saint-Germain.

The victim said the incident had "destroyed" him and made him afraid to take public transport and there has been widespread international condemnation of it.

An investigation has also been opened in France.

Lawyers for one of the five men, 20-year-old Jordan Munday, said on Wednesday that their client "adamantly denies being involved in any racist chanting and there is no evidence that he was".

"We question why the Metropolitan Police Service has chosen to become involved in an incident which occurred in another European country," he said.

Another one of the five, Richard Barklie, 50, is a former police officer in Northern Ireland. He has said he is sorry for the "trauma and stress" caused but said he did not take part in the chants.