The English soccer club Chelsea said Wednesday that the team will take “the strongest possible action” against any supporters who took part in pushing a black man off a Paris train and then yelling a racist chant.
“Such behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in football or society,” the statement reads. “We will support any criminal action against those involved in such behaviour, and should evidence point to the involvement of Chelsea season ticket holders or members the club will take the strongest possible action against them including banning orders.”
In a video of the incident, which occurred Tuesday, a group of white English men are seen pushing a black man out of a subway car as surrounding commuters watch. “Can I get on or what?” the black man then says in French, only to then get pushed off again, according to the Associated Press.
The men in the video proceeded to chant: “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it,” as a black woman steps away from the scene.
The incident, which was caught on tape by British expatriate Paul Nolan and provided exclusively to the Guardian, occurred at the Richelieu-Drouot subway station in Paris. Nolan said he filmed the scene at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, about an hour and 15 minutes before Chelsea F.C. played a match against Paris Saint-Germain.
"I think there was a certain amount of pack mentality," Nolan said later, adding that the alleged Chelsea supporters also made mention of World War II during the incident.
"There definitely was a culture shock,” he added. “I heard a couple of French guys saying: 'I can't believe this. It's insane.’"
French police have opened an investigation into the incident, and Scotland Yard has said it will try to help identify the men seen on the video. The London police force will scour through a database of past Chelsea “troublemakers” to see if any of them match those in the video, according to the The Guardian.
If found guilty of crimes of racial violence, the people filmed in the video could face up to three years in prison, a fine equivalent to $69,400 and a potential ban on travel to soccer games in the future.
One Chelsea fan who was on the train told the Press Association it’s “not true at all” that the man was pushed off the subway because he was black. “I personally think it’s because he was a [Paris Saint-Germain] fan,” he said. “Obviously they didn’t want him anywhere with us.”
ESPN notes that no one has been able to concretely confirm that the men videotaped on the train were Chelsea supporters. Prior to the incident, French riot police watched over a large group of Chelsea fans at two bars in central Paris to avoid a repeat of a 2014 violent altercation between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain supporters.
The UEFA, European soccer's governing body, has said that it will support “any action that is taken” by French authorities. UEFA regulations hold clubs responsible for incidents that occur “inside and around the stadium, before, during and after matches,” according to the Guardian.
“I also condemn the actions of a small group of Chelsea fans in Paris,” Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, the world football's governing body, tweeted Wednesday. “There is no place for racism in football!”