Numerous shocking anecdotes were shared in Parliament yesterday during a debate on the subject of antisemitism in football.
The Westminster Hall debate was called by Conservative MP Theresa Villers, who cited several examples, including Celtic fans’ treatment of their club’s own Israeli player, Nir Bitton, who was called a “dirty Jew bastard” and a “Zionist rat”, a “Happy Passover” message posted to social media by Aston Villa which was met with negative comments and many thousands of “dislikes”, and the accusation that Jews were “ruining football” when Chelsea, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur, whose owners are Jewish, looked to break away and form a European Super League.
Ms Villiers also cited examples of behaviour by fans in the stands: a Chelsea supporter who was jailed for posting antisemitic tweets including photos from Auschwitz and someone performing a Nazi salute; an Everton fan who was banned from attending matches for three years for singing antisemitic chants at Tottenham fans; Chelsea fans singing a song that ended in the words “f**king Jew”; and Burnley fans arrested for making Nazi salutes at Tottenham fans.
Ms Villiers also pointed out that there were many more examples than this. She said that “I am afraid time prevents me from embarking on anything like a comprehensive account of the harassment and intimidation to which Jewish people are routinely subjected at football matches.”
Labour Party MP Christian Wakeford said that antisemitism can be found at every level of football in the UK, and cited examples of Jewish players as young as seven being hissed at by their rivals to reproduce the sound of gas chambers. Mr Wakeford said: “I am sure that we can all agree that is truly shameful, shocking and abhorrent.”
The Labour MP for Canterbury, Rosie Duffield, added that hatred of Jews is often left out of anti-racist activism. Ms Duffield said: “Antisemitism, like every form of racism, is ugly, aggressive, and ignorant, but also often overlooked or left out completely when we discuss racism in sport. We applaud the lead taken by Lewis Hamilton, and other national sporting icons, when taking the knee to highlight racism, and the important work of groups such as Show Racism the Red Card, and Kick It Out. But barely a mention is given to the antisemitic chants or language that are seemingly just accepted or ignored on the terraces.”
The Conservative MP Scott Benton also contributed a disturbing anecdote to the debate. Mr Benton recalls being in a pub with some West Ham fans before attending a match at West Ham’s former ground, Upton Park: “After singing disparaging chants about Tottenham [Hotspur], those fans proceeded to hiss and imitate the evil of the Holocaust, in a direct reference to Tottenham’s Jewish heritage. It was not just a few mindless idiots, but dozens of people, and it lasted a long time.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism continues to act against instances of anti-Jewish racism in all sports.