Football: Chelsea face partial stadium closure over alleged racist chanting by fans as Uefa opens case

A general view inside Stamford Bridge stadium.
A general view inside Stamford Bridge stadium.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (THE GUARDIAN, AFP) - Chelsea face the partial closure of Stamford Bridge in the Europa League after Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings over allegations that their travelling supporters engaged in racist chanting during the draw at Vidi last month.

The European football governing body announced on Tuesday (Jan 15) that, based on the report submitted by its ethics and disciplinary inspector who had investigated incidents at the group-stage fixture in Budapest, proceedings had been instigated against Chelsea.

Uefa's control, ethics and disciplinary body will deal with the case at its next meeting, on Feb 28.

Its 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.

Chelsea host the second leg of their round-of-32 tie with the Swedish club, Malmo, on Feb 21, meaning any sanction would be implemented either in the last 16 or, if they have been eliminated, when the London club next feature in the competition.

This would be Chelsea's first offence, and a second incident would see them forced to play a match behind closed doors.

The club publicly condemned the chants - an anti-Tottenham Hotspur (who have a large Jewish fan base) song which was heard in the opening three minutes - in the immediate aftermath of the 2-2 draw at the Groupama Arena.

They have endeavoured to identify those in the 1,273 away support involved with a view to imposing bans from Stamford Bridge, as well as offering anyone found guilty the chance to enter an educational programme in a bid to learn why the chant is so offensive.

The club, whose owner Roman Abramovich is Jewish, launched its Say No to Antisemitism campaign a year ago to raise awareness and educate about anti-semitism in football.

The chairman, Bruce Buck, has since published an open letter to supporters condemning the actions of a "mindless" minority and vowing not to rest "until we have eliminated all forms of discrimination from our club", adding: "If you do not share these values, this is not the club for you."

Chelsea have already been dogged by accusations of fan racism in recent weeks, with four supporters banned pending an investigation into alleged racist insults directed at Raheem Sterling during the Blues' 2-0 win over English Premier League champions Manchester City in early December.

Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri said the club were in a "fight against stupid people" following further allegations of racism by supporters in the away end during his side's 2-1 win at Watford on Boxing Day.