LONDON • Chelsea have temporarily suspended four fans from attending their matches while they carry out an investigation into allegations Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling was racially abused during Saturday's Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge.
TV cameras caught a home supporter hurling vitriol at the 24-year-old during the 2-0 win and the club have since said they will not hesitate to ban anyone.
That man has been identified by The Daily Mail as Colin Wing, who has denied using a racist slur.
"I'm deeply ashamed by my own behaviour and I feel really bad. I offer him an unreserved apology. Even if it wasn't racist, it's not right what I said," the 60-year-old told the paper, adding he has since lost his job and his season ticket.
The paper revealed that while Wing has been spoken to by police, no arrests have yet been made nor have charges been filed.
Chelsea said in a statement on Monday that their investigation is ongoing and they will fully support the police in the case.
They added: "Chelsea finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour abhorrent and, if there is evidence of ticket holders taking part in any racist behaviour, the club will issue severe sanctions, including bans.
"We will fully support any criminal prosecutions."
The club are tracking down all the video and audio coverage of the incident and are interviewing stewards while broadcaster BT Sport has forwarded its footage to the police. Chelsea are also employing lip readers to establish what was said.
Defending champions City welcomed the swift action, saying: "The club and Raheem are fully engaged with Chelsea and the investigating authorities as they continue to examine the events in question.
"Manchester City and Raheem are committed to working with all relevant parties and organisations to support the objective of eradicating racism from the game."
The incident has provoked widespread condemnation amid fears football is returning to the dark ages of racism that blighted the sport in the 1970s and 1980s.
Former England assistant coach Gary Neville claimed this was just one of many cases of "vicious abuse" Sterling has had to suffer down the years.
He told Sky Sports: "It's not undertones, it's blatant.
"This isn't just a Chelsea fan at the weekend, this has been going on for years for him. He came to see me in 2016. Was it happening to him before that?"
The Professional Footballers' Association also called for clubs to take strong action to tackle racism in a statement that read: "The PFA condemns, in the strongest terms, the increase in racial abuse our members have been receiving from the terraces.
"We encourage clubs to take the strongest possible action for fans found guilty of racially abusing players.
"It is not acceptable for our members to find themselves subject to racist abuse, simply for showing up to work and performing for their team."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON