Chelsea have permanently banned one supporter from Stamford Bridge for the use of racially abusive language and threatening and aggressive behaviour during last season’s home game with Manchester City.
The Premier League club have also temporarily excluded five other fans for periods of between one and two years for the use of abusive language and threatening and aggressive behaviour at the fixture on December 8.
Claims City forward Raheem Sterling was racially abused by a member of the crowd during the Blues’ 2-0 win were investigated by police but the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
Chelsea said they had delayed reaching a decision in the cases in order to ensure they did not prejudice that investigation.
The club concluded, with the use of video evidence, interviews with potential witnesses, and advice from lip-reading experts, that racially abusive words had been used by the fan handed a lifetime ban.
Referring to that supporter, a club statement read: “While the club respects the decision of the CPS (not to charge the individual with a criminal offence), the question that it had to determine was not whether a criminal offence had been committed, but rather whether the individual acted in breach of the ticketing terms and conditions.
“In this regard, the club operates to the civil standard of proof, which is entirely different to the criminal standard.
“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.”
According to the club, all individuals sanctioned as a result of their investigation were offered the right to appeal and, where applicable, those appeals have been heard.
The five fans handed temporary bans from the stadium will be allowed to return subject to “undertakings about their future behaviour”.
The statement continued: “In this case the behaviour of all six individuals crossed the line of what is acceptable.
“Furthermore, in the case of the supporter who was found by the club to have used racially abusive language, there is no place for this behaviour at Stamford Bridge and a permanent exclusion was the appropriate sanction.
“Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour 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.”
Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out expressed frustration with the CPS decision but praised Chelsea for sending a “strong message” against racism.
A statement read: “We are disappointed that the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue a case against the supporter who racially abused Raheem Sterling, but we are pleased Chelsea have sent a strong message that racism has absolutely no place at their club or in football.
“Kick It Out is a firm believer in the power of education to rehabilitate offenders, however we believe in a case as serious as this, a lifetime ban was an appropriate sanction.
“The racist abuse Raheem Sterling suffered that day was a disgrace and his response on social media was an important moment in forcing football to have a far more honest and open conversation about racism and discrimination in the game.”