BRIGHTON, England — Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck spoke to travelling Blues supporters ahead of Sunday’s match against Brighton to further explain the club’s stance on offensive chants and behaviour, sources have told ESPN FC.
The words and actions of match-going Chelsea fans have come under the microscope in recent days following the alleged racist abuse suffered by Manchester City star Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge last weekend, coupled with antisemitic chants sung by a minority of those who travelled to Budapest for the club’s Europa League match against Vidi on Thursday.
Chelsea issued a statement shortly after the match accusing those supporters who had referred to rivals Tottenham using a derogatory Jewish term at Groupama Arena of shaming the club, and UEFA are currently assessing whether to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the Blues. A decision is expected early next week.
Sources told ESPN FC that Buck — who has been a visible presence in the “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich launched in January — positioned himself outside the away entrance to the Amex Stadium alongside Steve Atkins, the club’s head of communications, prior to kick-off in order to talk to Blues fans as they arrived.
Buck’s presence was also intended to serve as a reminder to Chelsea supporters that the club, as well as the wider football world, would be scrutinising them closely on Sunday afternoon.
The match itself, which Chelsea won 2-1 thanks to goals from Pedro Rodriguez and Eden Hazard, passed without any audible offensive chanting or misbehaviour from the away end, and the lack of further trouble at the Amex Stadium was greeted with considerable relief by the club hierarchy.
Recent incidents are understood to have dismayed Abramovich, who was granted Israeli citizenship earlier this year and has adopted the fight against antisemitism as a personal cause.
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.