Chelsea “have a problem” with racist and anti-Semitic fan behaviour but believe education rather than bans will better help tackle the problem, says chairman Bruce Buck.
Raheem Sterling was allegedly racially abused by Chelsea fans in December and Blues fans were accused of anti-Semitic chanting during a Europa League game.
“We’ve changed our approach,” Buck told BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Today podcast.
“We believe with certain activity the best way to deal with it is education.”
He added: “We believe if someone does something wrong and we ban them from the stadium for three years, they are not going to change their behaviour.
“They will become more racist or more anti-Semitic.
“Historically over the last 10 or 15 years, since Mr Abramovich [Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich] owned the football club, if there has been racist behaviour or anti-Semitic behaviour, we have dealt with it with a stadium ban.
“But as part of this project, talking about it over the last two years, we have changed our approach.”
Buck said the education programme is only available following some offences and the offender must admit the transgression before continuing.
“Our approach on all of those is to write to the alleged offender and ask them to comment,” Buck said.
“Once we get the comments back, we consider it and take all of the factors into consideration and decide whether it is appropriate to resolve it through education.”
Buck on Sterling incident
Chelsea suspended four fans in December while a police investigation into the alleged racial abuse of Manchester City forward Sterling in concluded.
Buck said the club’s security team acted “very, very well” with their response and any fans found guilty could be offered an education programme.
“There is a police investigation involved which prevents us doing our work for some period of time but we have asked all of them to explain to us what happened and once the police investigation is concluded then we will conduct our own investigation and determine what the remedies are,” Buck said.
“It could be education or it could be something else.
“They [the club’s security team] were able to identify the four people that were involved in a series of incidents and were able to stop them and talk to them before they left the stadium.
“We have very good CCTV and our stewards are well trained.
“We have prepared special brochures and handed out cards to fans, so if they hear something they know who to call or who to text.”
‘I support players walking off the field’
The racist abuse of England players marred their win in Montenegro in March.
Sterling called for footballing authorities to take a “proper stance” with their punishment.
Some questioned whether England’s players should have walked off the field after hearing the abuse but manager Gareth Southgate said he was “not 100% certain that that would be what the players would want”.
However, Buck said he would support players leaving the field.
“I do think it will make a big difference,” Buck said.
“I think it will happen once or twice and the transgressors will get the point.
“It is one possible way but I want to emphasise if that is one of the remedies then it needs to be implemented thoughtfully.
“The captain or the player needs appropriate training or guidelines to implement it properly.”