Football chiefs say antisemitism 'has got worse'

In the week when football’s anti-racist efforts have come under the microscope, Jewish personalities within the game have criticised the Football Association, the government and the police for not doing enough to tackle antisemitism at stadiums and playing fields.

Manchester United non-executive director Mike Edelson believes antisemitism in football “has got worse”.

On Wednesday, Mr Edelson was involved in the Old Trafford launch of a Kick It Out teachers’ pack aimed at eradicating antisemitism at school football level. The pack was produced in collaboration with Maccabi and the Community Security Trust and the hope is that schools nationwide will adopt the 80-page teaching resource.

“The main purpose of the launch is to spread the word about reporting incidents to the FA,” Mr Edelson said. “That means stewards and police and people at grass-roots level. It’s not aimed at the Jewish community, it’s for everybody.

“We have to ensure that football addresses antisemitism together with all forms of bigotry.”

Also at the launch was Oldham midfielder Dean Furman, the first Jew to represent the South African national team. He said the response by the authorities to recent antisemitic incidents had been “very disappointing” in that the “sanctions aren’t as heavy for racists compared to the life bans that had been handed to some fans in the past”.

But unlike Premier League stars such as Rio Ferdinand who refused to wear Kick It Out shirts at the weekend, he backed the organisation’s work. “The more that can be taught, starting with the youngsters, the better. But you want adults to be role models as well.”

His chairman at Oldham, Simon Corney, was more outspoken, claiming the government should do more to tackle antisemitism in football. “The government leave it to the FA but the football authorities don’t have a smart plan of how to handle it.”

Fighting racism would be easier if the game’s stars got involved. “There are only 10 or 12 really high-profile top players.

“Get these guys on board and kids will listen. Until these people join, the campaign will be very difficult.”

Mr Corney was dismayed at reports that police took no action against two men selling racist badges outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium — and that a Newcastle fan who made Nazi salutes received only a police caution and a three-match ban.

“The police need to come down really hard on people,” he insisted. “There should be zero tolerance.

“If someone is saying ‘f***ing Jews’, he needs to know that’s a night in the slammer, not a telling off. Half the country is on cautions. What difference does it make?”

A CST spokesperson noted that “antisemitic abuse in football, whether in Sunday leagues or in the professional game, often goes unreported as many people shrug it off as banter or don’t think it will be taken seriously.

“Racism in football has not gone away and we are pleased to support Kick It Out in addressing antisemitism.”

Last updated: 3:17pm, October 25 2012