Chelsea has banned six of its fans – one for life – following the racist abuse of Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling during an English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in December.
The one individual permanently excluded from its stadium was found to have used “racially abusive language and threatening and aggressive behavior,” the club said.
The other five fans have been banned for between one and two years for “abusive language and threatening and aggressive behavior.”
Chelsea says it reviewed video evidence, interviewed witnesses and used the expertise of two lip reading professionals.
“In the case of the supporter who was found by the club to have used racially abusive language, there is no place for this behavior at Stamford Bridge and a permanent exclusion was the appropriate sanction,” said a Chelsea statement.
“Chelsea finds all forms of discriminatory behavior abhorrent and we will continue to operate a zero tolerance approach to any incidents of racism. We are proud to be a diverse, inclusive club where people from all cultures, communities and identities feel welcome.”
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Spokesman for his generation
Chelsea says it took into account the recent decision of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to open criminal proceedings against the six individuals.
“The club operates to the civil standard of proof, which is entirely different to the criminal standard,” Chelsea added.
“In reaching its decision, the club took into account the denial made by the individual as well as a range of other evidence, including video evidence and evidence from two lip reading experts – both of whom advised that the individual had used words that are racially abusive.”
The incident prompted Sterling to upload a post on social media, highlighting the difference in the way the media speaks about young black players and white players.
He argued how the media plays a role in perpetuating racial prejudices in society, and he became something of an unofficial spokesman for his generation of players on the issue of racism.
His voice was once again called upon in March following England’s 5-1 victory over Montenegro, during which Sterling and teammates Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi were racially abused.
UEFA, European football’s governing body, has been heavily criticized for what fans believe is a weak record in tackling racism.
In May 2018, the Russian Football Association was fined $29,000 for racist chanting, while Montenegro was ordered to play its next Euro 2020 qualifier behind closed doors and was fined 20,000 euros ($20,300) for racist abuse of England players in Podgorica in March.