Holocaust Memorial Day - time for The Football Association to blow the whistle on racism?


Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.

Late last year, Howard Kennedy jointly sponsored with David Sullivan, joint-chairman of West Ham FC and others, an event entitled “Anti-Semitism in football – How serious is it now?”  

We brought together a panel presided over by my colleague Jonathan Metliss and comprised of Director of Kick It Out, Roisin Wood, football journalists Henry Winter and Anthony Clavane, Jewish footballer Joe Jacobson, Brighton & Hove Albion chairman Tony Bloom and President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush. 

According to Roisin Wood and during the 2013-14 season, 57 anti-Semitic incidents were reported. The following term there were 63 and by last season, the figure had risen to 83. Henry Winter, The Times chief football correspondent, revealed that on calling the FA to ask for statistics about anti-Semitism. “They reckoned there was a decrease - I go to so many games a year – and I think that’s rubbish.”

Many will recall Nicolas Anelka performing the infamous inverted Nazi salute, the 'Quenelle', which resulted in his receiving a five match ban and £80,000 fine. Yet neither Malky Mackay, Wigan's then manager nor former head of recruitment Iain Moody, faced any charges for a series of racist, sexist and anti-Semitic text messages, on the basis they were sent with a legitimate expectation of privacy. 

I was reminded of these events when reading about the latest high profile incident, filmed on Manchester's tram system and linked below, before last Saturday's game between City and Tottenham. It echoed the tale of the four Chelsea fans who were eventually banned from attending football matches for five years, following an incident on the Paris Métro, when a black commuter was pushed off a carriage at Richelieu-Drouot station, before a Champions League game with Paris Saint-Germain.

Meanwhile, Juventus face parts of their stadium being closed following allegations of their fans making anti-Semitic chants aimed at Fiorentina players during Juve’s 3-0 Serie A win over Bologna in Turin on 8 January. The Italian Football Federation has already opened an investigation.

These various examples highlight a broader problem in the FA's alleged 'zero-tolerance' approach towards all forms of discriminatory practices. Whilst the FA is able to and has become better at influencing events inside stadia on match day, it is heavily reliant on more traditional crime enforcement agencies to act on events elsewhere. Limited resources mean that results can be patchy. Further, racism continues to flourish in no-go areas, within the exclusivity of boardrooms, training grounds and dressing rooms and in particular via private communication networks.

The on-going challenge for the FA and indeed football governing bodies across Europe, is how best to create a joined up system, where all instances of racism, regardless of where they occur, are identified and punished accordingly.

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A video in which football fans can be heard singing anti-Semitic insults is being investigated by police. Supporters heading towards the Etihad Stadium before Manchester City's Premier League game against Tottenham on Saturday were heard chanting the abuse on a tram. The chants were apparently directed at Spurs supporters.
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