Chelsea chairman promises to stamp out discrimination as UEFA probe 'alleged racist incidents' at Europa match
LONDON -- Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has pledged in an open letter to supporters that the club will not rest until it has "eliminated all forms of discrimination" after UEFA on Tuesday confirmed they are investigating "alleged racist incidents" during the Blues' match against Vidi in the Europa League earlier this month.
Buck, who spoke to travelling Chelsea fans ahead of Sunday's match against Brighton to explain the club's stance on offensive chants and behaviour, also warned any individuals who do not share the club's values of diversity and inclusion that "this is not the club for you."
The open letter comes after a series of unsavoury incidents that have heightened scrutiny on the words and actions of a vocal minority of Chelsea's support.
"After recent events, I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to our community and fans to condemn the actions of a few mindless individuals at some of our recent matches," Buck wrote in the letter, which was published on Chelsea's official website.
"These actions are unacceptable and unwelcome both in our club and in football. A deeply unpleasant but vocal minority which refuses to join us in the 21st century has shamed the great majority of our decent, well-behaved fans.
"The message from Mr Abramovich, our directors, our coaches, our players and our hundreds of staff is simple -- this is a club open to everybody. We are committed and determined to be a force for good and not a symbol of society's wider problems.
"Clearly, there remains a way to go on this journey, but we will not rest until we have eliminated all forms of discrimination from our club. We will continue to work alongside our fans, anti-discrimination organisations and football authorities to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and valued.
"If you do not share these values, this is not the club for you.
"We are determined to win this battle, but we need the backing and action of those who share the principles of this great club."
UEFA announced on Tuesday that they are investigating "alleged racist incidents" during the Europa League match at Vidi.
The match, which ended 2-2, was marred from the opening minutes by reports on social media of antisemitic chanting coming from the section of Groupama Arena that housed the 1,273 Chelsea supporters who had travelled to Budapest.
After the game, a club spokesman said those who had used a derogatory word in reference to rivals Tottenham had "shamed the club." If found guilty, UEFA could impose a partial closure of Stamford Bridge for Chelsea's Europa League round-of-32 tie against Malmo on Feb. 21.
The chants in the Vidi match followed the alleged racist abuse suffered by Manchester City star Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge earlier this month. Chelsea have suspended four supporters from attending matches pending the outcome of a Metropolitan Police investigation into the incident.
On Monday it emerged that British Transport Police are appealing for witnesses as they investigate reports of antisemitic chanting on a train between Falmer -- which serves the Amex Stadium -- and Brighton after the Sunday's match between the two clubs in the Premier League.
Chelsea assistant coach Gianfranco Zola asked supporters to take responsibility for their actions, adding that it's important fans send "good signals."
"It's about responsibilities, of course," Zola said in a news conference ahead of Wednesday's Carabao Cup quarterfinal against Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge.
"If you are in a group and you want to be recognised for the good things as a group, you have to be responsible for each one in that group. I am assuming that, when it happens, people are responsible and do support, they do act in a very respectful way.
"At the end of the day, it's important we send good signals. I think these supporters never let me down. I'm sure that it will happen... I'm expecting a strong and positive and respectful reaction from this."
He added: "But I'm sure that all supporters will be in the right way and will make sure the reaction is going to be the one that is suitable for the situation."
These incidents of antisemitic chanting are particularly embarrassing for Chelsea, who have gone further than any other club in their attempts to eradicate antisemitism from football since launching a targeted campaign at the urging of Abramovich in January.
Holocaust survivor Harry Spiro was invited to Cobham to address the Chelsea first-team squad in January, while the club sent a delegation to attend the annual March of the Living at Auschwitz in April.
This was followed in June by an official visit, consisting of 150 supporters and club officials, to the Nazi concentration camp. Last month Chelsea announced that they will play MLS club New England Revolution in a postseason friendly, branded "Game for Change," as part of their campaign against antisemitism.
Abramovich and Revolution owner Robert Kraft, who are both Jewish, have pledged to donate $1 million (£778,565) to the fight against antisemitism, with all money from ticket sales also going to the cause.