LONDON (AFP) - Chelsea suspended three people from attending the club’s Stamford Bridge stadium on Thursday as part of the Premier League team’s investigation into a racist incident on the Paris Metro.
A black commuter was pushed back by what appeared to be a group of Chelsea fans travelling to the Parc des Princes for the 1-1 Champions League last 16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
A chant of “We’re racist and that’s the way we like it” from the Chelsea fans was clearly audible on a video of the incident at the Richelieu-Drouot Metro station.
Chelsea responded to widespread condemnation of the incident by announcing three supporters had been identified and have been suspended, pending further investigation.
The swift action prevents those supporters from attending Saturday’s Premier League match with Burnley at Stamford Bridge, which has been designated a "Game for Equality".
The supporters face life bans if they are found guilty.
“Chelsea Football Club is suspending three people from Stamford Bridge as a result of investigations into the incident on the Paris Metro on Tuesday evening,” a statement on the club’s website announced.
“If it is deemed there is sufficient evidence of their involvement in the incident, the club will issue banning orders for life.
“We have received substantial information to date following our witness appeal and we are grateful to the many Chelsea supporters who have provided information so far.
“Our investigations are on-going and we would request any further information is sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We also continue to cooperate fully with the Metropolitan and Paris police forces who lead the ongoing criminal investigation.”
The supporters’ action were condemned by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Fifa president Sepp Blatter and anti-racism groups Football Against Racism in Europe and Kick It Out.
Chelsea’s first ever black player, Paul Canoville, said he was “embarrassed” and “ashamed” by the incident.
And prior to revealing the suspensions, Chelsea has already released a statement describing the incident as “abhorrent” and vowed to take the “strongest possible” action if supporters are found to be involved.
Paris prosecutors had earlier confirmed that the alleged victim, identified in media reports as 33-year-old Souleymane S., had made a formal complaint.
The French authorities are working with their British counterparts and anyone convicted of “deliberate racial violence on public transport” could face a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to 45,000 euro (S$70,000).
In an interview with Le Parisien on Thursday, the man described by the newspaper as French-Mauritanian, called for those involved to be jailed.
The man, reported by Le Parisien to be a chief operating officer at a business close to the Metro station, told the newspaper: “These people, these English supporters, have to be found, punished and should be locked up. What happened shouldn’t go unpunished.
“I understood that they were attacking me because of the colour of my skin. I wanted to get into the carriage but a group of English supporters blocked me and pushed me away. I tried to force my way on, I again tried to go back. In the jostling, I lost my phone.
“They were saying things in English to me but I wasn’t understanding what they were saying. I don’t speak a word of English.
“I went back to my home without talking to anyone about this story, not my wife or my children. What could I say to my children? That dad was shoved on the Metro because he is black? That wouldn’t be any use.”
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is expected to be asked about the incident at his pre-match press conference on Friday.