Football debate scores big with JW3 supporters

By Marcus Dysch, February 17, 2014
Raymond Simonson

Raymond Simonson

The lack of Jewish professional footballers, racism in sport and Nicolas Anelka's quenelle gesture were the most hotly-contested issues at a debate on the beautiful game which drew a capacity crowd to JW3 in Finchley Road.

They watched clips of comedian David Baddiel and the film Sixty Six, in which a barmitzvah boy's big day coincides with the 1966 World Cup final.

These were interspersed with a panel discussion on What has football ever done for the Jews? featuring talkSPORT host Andy Jacobs, who produced Baddiel's Fantasy Football League comedy series.

It also included Jo Rosenthal, curator of the Jewish Museum's popular Four Four Jew exhibition, who examined the role played by British Jews in modern-day football.

She said businessmen who had been involved in the running of clubs, such as David Dein at Arsenal and Irving Scholar at Tottenham, were "motivated, at least in part, by a love for their club, which is completely different to the new generation of owners who may be using their clubs for PR reasons".

When the debate moved to the controversy over the use of the Y-word by Tottenham fans, debate chair and JW3 chief executive Raymond Simonson recalled that hearing the word at football had made his late father "recoil".

But Guardian journalist Anna Kessel said police and the game's governing bodies had missed the point on tackling antisemitism.

"The whole debate around the Y-word is a total red herring. People chanting about Spurs going to Belsen is abhorrent - there is no argument about that. Why don't we just focus on the chants that are categorically antisemitic first?"

Times and JC columnist David Aaronovitch was also on the panel.

Last updated: 11:45am, February 17 2014