Criminal inquiries were launched today after video emerged on Tuesday night of British soccer supporters repeatedly pushing a black man off a Paris metro train, then singing: "We're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it."
French and UK police announced investigations into the incident, while Chelsea Football Club supported the action and said it would take the "strongest possible action" against any of its season-ticket holders or members found to have taken part in the "abhorrent behavior."
Paris prosecutors have said the people involved face three years in prison, a fine of 45,000 euros ($51,000) for "racist violence on public transport," and extradition to France if they are identified.
The incident took place at the Richelieu-Drouot metro platform in Paris on Tuesday, before the Champions League match between Chelsea FC and Paris Saint-Germain.
British expatriate Paul Nolan filmed footage of the incident on his phone and then sent the video to the Guardian. "It looked like it was quite aggressive," said Nolan. "He was obviously completely shocked when they pushed him off," he added.
Chelsea Football Club stated that this behavior "has no place in football or society," that it would "support any criminal action against those involved," and consider banning orders against the perpetrators.
England's Football Association (FA) backed up the London club, adding that, "those responsible should face the strongest possible punishment."
London's Metropolitan Police said its officers will analyze footage of the incident to help French authorities identifying those involved and will support any action taken by its French counterpart. The Met also stated it is planning to issue banning orders to travel for future matches against the people who took part in the Paris incident, if they will be identified. "The Metropolitan Police Service takes offences such as this very seriously, no matter where they occur," said the British police body.
Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's governing body FIFA, expressed his disappointment over the events on Twitter, writing: "There is no place for racism in football!"
UEFA, the European body, also condemned racist behavior, but said it will not take action against Chelsea or its fans as the incident occurred away from the stadium. "It is a matter for the local authorities to investigate further," read UEFA's statement.
Le Figaro reported that the game was already categorized "at risk" by the authorities prior to the metro incident, due to the violence of the clashes that took place last April between Chelsea and PSG fans in Paris. That time as well, Chelsea fans showed racist behavior, according to witnesses.
In the 1970s and 80s, Chelsea fans were often associated with racist behavior and chanting. In the decades since, however, English football has changed radically — though one the most infamous recent episodes of racism on the field was when the FA found Chelsea captain John Terry guilty of racially abusing an opposition player in September 2012. Terry was banned for four matches and fined £220,000.
Lord Ouseley, chair of the UK anti-racism campaigning organization Kick It Out, expressed his shock over the Chelsea fans' behavior on Tuesday. "I thought the club had made it quite clear and taken action about stopping any repetition, knowing Chelsea, how hard they've worked on these matters, with fans as well as players, that it was unlikely to occur," he said.
Follow Giulia Aloisio on Twitter: @giulia7ar
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