POLICE have launched an investigation after a Chelsea supporter appeared to make a monkey gesture towards Manchester United’s black forward Danny Welbeck during Wednesday’s Capital One Cup match.
The Blues acted swiftly yesterday to probe the incident after images of the alleged protagonist began circulating online, appealing for anyone to identify the man and pledging to support a criminal prosecution.
The Metropolitan Police later opened its own investigation after receiving “a complaint regarding alleged racist behaviour”, it said in a statement, relating to the midweek game.
“The club will be examining all available footage and asks anyone who can identify the individual to contact the club,” Chelsea said in a statement. “Chelsea FC is committed to removing all forms of discrimination and if we have sufficient evidence we will take the strongest possible action, including supporting criminal prosecution.”
Liverpool supporter Phillip Gannon was banned from football matches for four years in June after being found guilty of making a monkey gesture towards United’s Patrice Evra in a match in January.
This is the latest episode in a series of incidents involving Chelsea and allegations of racism, both from and towards people connected with the club, including captain John Terry and referee Mark Clattenburg.
Remarkably, it is also the second time in the space of just three days that police have been moved to look into allegations of racism at Stamford Bridge following a fixture between Chelsea and United.
Officers are currently investigating claims that Premier League official Clattenburg used a racist term in relation to Chelsea’s Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel during Sunday’s match against United.
A complaint to police came after Chelsea announced they had complained to the Premier League’s match delegate about Clattenburg’s “inappropriate language”. The club lodged a formal complaint with the Football Association on Wednesday, although they dropped allegations the referee also verbally abused another player, Juan Mata.
Terry is currently serving a four-match ban after being found guilty by an FA panel of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand during a match 12 months ago, having been acquitted by a criminal court in July.
Clattenburg is understood to deny the claims, and is expected to be supported by testimony from his assistants, with whom he was in radio contact throughout Sunday’s game.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger yesterday criticised Chelsea’s haste in publicising their complaint against Clattenburg, who will not officiate this weekend while investigations continue.
“My opinion is just when I didn’t behave well I have an explanation with the referee at the end of the game or another day, rather than going public with little proof.”
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup argued that the investigations should have been concluded more quickly.
“The problem is we have let it go on too many days,” said Laudrup. “It happened Sunday, now it’s Thursday and you are asking me about it. Let’s get things on the table and deal with it.”