Seb Coe: Sport leads the way

Olympic champion, organiser and Chelsea fan Lord Sebastian Coe files his first column of the season, reflecting on our start under Maurizio Sarri and the need for sport to be open to all...

I have been involved in sport, either as a competitor or administrator, for about 50 years.

There is not one moment in that time where sport would have survived if it had been based on anything other than free and fair competition in an environment that was non-negotiable about discrimination.

So often, sport has led the way in society. Sport has always been brave to take on issues, particularly issues of discrimination, in the way that politicians sometimes do not. Sport is multicultural, it is the most profound social work we have, and we are better for it.

At Chelsea, I have stood and sat in the Shed End since the late 1960s and we have come a long way since then. I don’t sit in a racist or abusive atmosphere. Of course, fans get emotional and heated, but I’ve never heard the type of abuse we have witnessed in recent weeks. What we are dealing with is not the majority of football fans, but every now and again, you get a few with toxic views who step beyond what is acceptable, and their behaviour is prehistoric.

There can be no space in sport or society for that sentiment, whether it is racist, homophobic, sexist or any other form of discrimination. It is prehistoric.

The diversity and inclusion work the club does, and through the Foundation, is fantastic. Chelsea should be proud of what we have achieved. As a fan, I am proud the club has taken steps to tackle these issues and will continue to battle against discrimination.

On the field, we have had an encouraging start to the season with Maurizio Sarri in charge. He is a smart coach and from the get-go, he has been very honest in saying it will take some time to get his ideas across. We have a good side and he has got more out of it in terms of style and flair than we have seen for a year or two. If we play in his way, we need a hard edge to us as well and that’s the second part that he is working on.

We are sailing along nicely in the Europa League, which has the potential for a Champions League place, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be in the top four come the end of the season, and some silverware would be very nice too. It’s tight, the top six will still be a dogfight and everybody has their fragilities.

As a fan, you want to win everything but we have to be realistic and accept that probably won’t happen this year. There is still a long way to go for us but we’ll be a better side next year and I hope Sarri is here for a long time because the fans are enjoying the football.

He is gaining a good reputation among us, and the media, because of his honesty and his football, but also thereisan openness and a warmth about him. It is reflective of how the club wants to be, and it is what we need right now.

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