Chelsea accuse Bates of racist slur

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Chelsea set the stage yesterday for a rancorous legal battle with Ken Bates when they accused the club's former owner, who is now chairman of Leeds United, of making anti-Semitic remarks about Roman Abramovich and his fellow Chelsea officials.

Chelsea have made a complaint to the Football Association on the grounds that Bates has broken the governing body's guidelines by referring to Abramovich and his fellow Jewish board member Eugene Tenenbaum and adviser Eugene Shvidler as "a bunch of shysters from Siberia". The remarks were in connection with Bates' attack on Chelsea's behaviour in their dispute over approaches to three players in Leeds' academy.

While the exact etymology of the word "shyster" - and whether it constitutes anti-Semitism - may be under debate, the level of Chelsea's anger with Bates is not. They feel his comments about Abramovich were beyond the pale and designed to cause the greatest possible offence.

Chelsea released a statement that read: "Such comments have no place in football, a sport which is rightly committed to fighting racial intolerance and bigotry. Chelsea believes these comments are part of a personal campaign being waged by Mr Bates against our club and his actions cannot be allowed to masquerade erroneously as being in the interests of football as he claims."

The charge against Bates, who sold Chelsea to Abramovich in 2003 for £17m, will be one of bringing the game into disrepute. He made the comments in an interview in reference to the dispute over two players, Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo, who turned down academy scholarships with Leeds this year and turned professional with Chelsea.

A third Leeds player, Danny Rose, who is also alleged to have been approached by Chelsea, decided to stay with Leeds. Bates has reported what he says is an illegal approach to the three players by Chelsea to the FA.

Since the allegations came to light, and they surround a former Leeds coach, Gary Worthington, who is now employed by Chelsea, another parent of a young player at Leeds has alleged he was offered a new kitchen by Chelsea to take his son on trial there.

The bad blood between Bates and Abramovich's Chelsea regime dates back to the takeover, after which Bates was quickly eased out of the club. Chelsea have accused him of breaking rules E3 and E4 which constitutes a serious offence.

Rule E3 deals with "threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour" and E4 covers anything that involves, among others, "ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, religion". Abramovich is Jewish.

The definition of the word "shyster" is someone who engages in sharp or unscrupulous practice. However, it does have racist connotations with Shylock, the Jewish character in Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice who is regarded by some as an offensive racial caricature.

Leeds said last night that they were "totally amused" by Chelsea's complaint and dismissed the allegations.