Eden Hazard led calls for restraint by Chelsea and Tottenham fans in Tuesday night’s League Cup semi-final, a match for which Scotland Yard will stage its biggest match-day security operation in recent years to combat a spike in anti-Semitism.
A “zero-tolerance” plan on hateful language has been devised by the Met Police, Spurs and Chelsea after recent warnings failed to combat a series of hateful incidents. Chelsea already face potential Uefa sanctions over anti-Jewish chanting and are now desperate to avoid further embarrassment. Club owner Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, launched a clampdown on anti-Semitism only last year.
On Monday night, Hazard, the club’s biggest star, launched an impassioned plea for calm. “I want people to remember the game for the right reasons,” he said. “I just want all the fans to watch and enjoy the match. One team will win, one will lose, but try to act with fair play.”
Chelsea have been liaising with Tottenham and Scotland Yard since the semi-final draw was made last month to formulate a plan which includes:
At least 100 extra uniformed officers inside Wembley and around train stations.
Uniformed police spotters will listen for hateful language.
Social-media efforts by police before kick-off to remind fans that “hate crime will not be tolerated”.
Chelsea stewards to attend with the power to eject any of the 5,000 visiting fans.
A message in the programme urging fans to report abuse.
Security and policing provided by Tottenham and Wembley was already due to be higher than usual as it is a category A fixture. Tottenham could face a bill of around £20,000 from the Met for the increased support.
Managers of both clubs appealed to supporters to watch their language. Mauricio Pochettino, of Spurs, said: “They need to support the players, nothing else. That is the most important thing for me. They need to create a good atmosphere and not to think about the emotion of hating each other.”
Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri added: “I think we need the support of our fans, of course, but we would like to have their support for us, not against the opponents.”
Sarri said his players had a part to play to stop tempers boiling over, adding “of course they can influence the fans, especially with the behaviour on the pitch”.
Hazard added: “Do I want the fans of both clubs to respect each other? Yes, of course. I have said before that these sort of fans [who sing anti-Semitic songs] are not fans for me. They come to the stadium just to say something. I understand people want the team they support to win, but they need to show fair play, to just support their team.”
Police are understood to have been impressed by Chelsea’s proactive plan to take their own stewards to Wembley.
Sarri’s side face the threat of a partial stadium closure after Uefa opened an investigation into their supporters singing anti-Semitic songs during a Europa League game against MOL Vidi in Budapest, five days after Raheem Sterling had been subjected to alleged racism from home fans during Manchester City’s Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Andros Townsend, the former Tottenham winger, was abused when he was in possession at Selhurst Park on Dec 30 during the win over Crystal Palace and a section of Chelsea fans used the Y-word in a song about Willian away to Watford four days earlier.
Spurs, meanwhile, should also take “a long overdue” stand against the use of the word “Yid” by their own fans, according to the World Jewish Congress and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Three Spurs fans were arrested in 2014 for using the word during a Europa League game, but the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued these cases. Debate has raged for years over the club’s fans attempting to use the word as part of a bid to “reclaim” the phrase due to their close links with the Jewish community.
In a statement ahead of Tuesday night’s match, the two Jewish organisations wrote that the use of the word had been reappropriated from its original Yiddish and now carried a “distinctly pejorative and anti-Semitic” message.
The Tottenham Supporters’ Trust was previously adamant that Spurs fans themselves should decide whether the chants be stopped.
Spurs said in statement: “The Y-word was originally adopted in order to deflect such abuse. We have always been clear that our fans [both Jewish and gentile] have never used the term with any deliberate intent to cause offence. A reassessment of its use can only occur effectively within the context of a total clampdown on unacceptable anti-Semitism.”
Dave Rich, head of policy at the anti-Semitism monitoring body Community Security Trust, told The Daily Telegraph there were 16 anti-Semitic incidents reported to him in English football between January to June last year.
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