Chelsea have moved to clarify comments by their chairman, Bruce Buck, in which he suggested Uefa’s decision to charge the club over alleged antisemitic chanting during a Europa League group game against Vidi had been “a waste of time”.
Uefa confirmed on Thursday that the charges would not be pursued, apparently because of a lack of evidence. That decision was reached despite Chelsea having released a statement immediately after the game in Budapest last December condemning those who had “shamed the club” and questioning “the brainpower” of anyone who had engaged in the chants, which had been heard in the opening three minutes of the tie and referenced “Yids”.
Buck, who has been at the forefront of Chelsea tackling the issue of discrimination, had been asked about Uefa’s decision as he collected a Community Project of the Year award for their “Say No To Antisemitism” programme. “The charge in the first place was a waste of time,” he said. “Almost nothing happened. I really thought they were wasting their time, effort and manpower on something like this and missing some of the big pictures.”
Chelsea would have faced a partial closure of their stadium as a minimum sanction had charges been proved. “It is of course hugely important that allegations of discriminatory behaviour are investigated,” said a Chelsea spokesman. “It is a subject this club takes extremely seriously, as evidenced by all of our public statements and our ongoing work and campaigns in this area.
“We welcome Uefa’s decision in this case, but our frustration, and the chairman’s frustration which he expressed after the decisions, was that they rushed to charge before conducting a full investigation. Charging early only added to the media furore and speculation around the allegations and possible sanctions.”
“I am very happy for our fans,” added Maurizio Sarri, who is considering recalling Kepa Arrizabalaga against Fulham on Sunday. “I am very happy for my players because, for us, it’s really very important to have the fans with us. Especially in Europe. I hope and I’m sure that the behaviour of our fans will be the best.”
Kick It Out said in a statement: “Kick It Out will always support football’s governing bodies taking allegations of anti-Semitism seriously, investigating thoroughly and taking action where appropriate – regardless of the number of people alleged to have been involved.”