Abramovich steps in amid racism outrage

Blues boss concerned as club increase efforts to identify and issue bans to anti-Semitic fans

LONDON • Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has requested reports on the club's attempts to clamp down on the fans who sang anti-Semitic songs during the Europa League tie against Vidi in Budapest on Thursday.

The Blues have asked the Hungarian club for close-circuit television footage that they hope will enable them to identify the vocal minority of travelling fans responsible for the chanting, which has disgusted Abramovich and others connected to the club.

Manager Maurizio Sarri has told The Daily Mail he "condemned every form of racism and discrimination". Having experienced it himself while managing in Italy, he also felt it was not just an English problem as "there are some stupid people all over the world".

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas agreed, saying he was happy for the club to be taught a lesson if it led to better behaviour from their supporters.

The Spaniard said: "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.

"The people that did it, they will be punished for it and they will be taught a big lesson in their lives. The quicker we get rid of these people, the better. This is not the real face of Chelsea."

Chelsea will issue life bans to any miscreants whom they are able to identify, although that may not be straightforward because the incident took place at an away ground where they do not control the ticketing arrangements.

Abramovich has been kept informed of Chelsea's attempts to combat racist behaviour, which include cooperating with an inquiry by London police into a supporter who allegedly racially abused Raheem Sterling during last Saturday's Premier League game against Manchester City.

The club have since temporarily suspended four people over that incident.

While Abramovich, who is a Russian Jew, has not been to home games this term after being denied a visa to enter the United Kingdom in May, he has followed Chelsea's progress closely and is passionate about eradicating a problem that has afflicted the club for years.

He took a prominent role this year in Chelsea launching a campaign against anti-Semitism, which is a problem among some fans that is exacerbated when they play Tottenham, who are known to have a big Jewish fan base.

While Uefa is still looking into the reports before deciding on any further action, a possible sanction could result in the closure of a section of Stamford Bridge for a Europa League knockout tie.

The ongoing racial storm threatens to overshadow their league game at Brighton, where Sarri's men are hoping to build on their morale-boosting win over champions City last weekend.

But Seagulls manager Chris Hughton feels off-field events will have little bearing on the pitch, saying: "They've adapted very well (to Sarri), any team that beats City at the moment has to have quality. The likes of Chelsea have so many threats that it's difficult to cope with all of them."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 16, 2018, with the headline 'Abramovich steps in amid racism outrage'. Print Edition | Subscribe