Soccer official calls for help at local level

By Jonathan Kalmus, March 1, 2012

The biggest threat to fighting antisemitism in football is the lack of competence in grassroots organisations, according to the Football Association's former director of corporate affairs.

Simon Johnson, who worked for the FA for more than seven years and led its first strategy group to tackle antisemitism, said that a process started by the football body to make county FAs robust enough to deal with racism was "taking time to filter down".

Mr Johnson was commenting on the case of top Manchester FA official Philip Morris, suspended for an antisemitic outburst two weeks ago. He said Manchester FA's decision to allow the national body to handle the case was correct.

Mr Johnson said: "The biggest threat to dealing with this effectively is the competence and time county football associations have. They are all volunteers and these are serious matters which often require serious investigation. It is not to say that they don't deal with racism, but that they might not be as competent to deal with a complaint as the central FA."

Mr Johnson said that the FA had successfully confronted a historic "lack of awareness, a lack of appreciation as to the seriousness of the abuse and a lack of realisation as to what could be done about it.

"Now the issue of racism has a profile it has not had for 20 years, let's hope that a focus from the top of the game will show people that racism belongs to the past. The Philip Morris case seems to me to be evidence that this is a battle that people will fight seriously."

Mr Johnson criticised Tottenham fans for continuing "yid" chants as unhelpful in eliminating antisemitism.

"Because the Spurs fans sing that they are the Yid Army, it means certain other fans believe it is open season to insult Spurs, using all the antisemitic prejudices and caricatures," he said. "But we shouldn't think that stopping Spurs fans calling themselves Yids is going to solve the problem. It is the symptom of the problem. There is a lot of work and education to be done."

Last updated: 3:25pm, March 1 2012