League club that raised Palestine flag at matches ‘breached football rules’

Forest Green Rovers has been accused of bringing the game into disrepute


English Football League club Forest Green Rovers (FGR) has been accused of bringing the game into disrepute by displaying the Palestinian flag and anti-Israel slogans at matches.

The League One side in Gloucestershire are the subject of complaints by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) over two incidents.

It has written to the Football Association (FA) saying that the Palestinian flag was raised at the club’s New Lawn Stadium on a match day in April.

Rovers owner and chairman Dale Vince defended his club at the time, saying: “We flew this flag at FGR’s game today. In solidarity with Palestine.

“The conflict there has all the same ingredients as the one in Ukraine — invasion, occupation, murder of civilians, destruction of homes and hospitals— and sieges.”

The same month, Mr Vince spoke to Dr Husam Zomlot, Head of the Palestine Mission to the UK, on the pitch, while advertising billboards called upon supporters to help end the “invasion” of Palestine.

In a letter to FA CEO Mark Bullingham, UKLFI claims these actions broke the regulation against bringing the game into disrepute. The pro-Israel campaigners also allege what took place is a breach of the FA’s equality policy requiring club officials to confront and eliminate discrimination based on nationality.

UKLFI’s letter claims too that Rovers breached the rules of world football organisation FIFA, which the FA is required to enforce.

UKLFI Director Sam Green said: “Mr Vince and FGRFC clearly used sports events for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature and brought the sport into disrepute. They are in clear and flagrant breach of these provisions.”

Mr Vince responded to the UKLFI’s letter by tweeting: “Your letter is a simple attempt to intimidate — as is often the way when people speak out in support of Palestine.”

In a letter posted on Twitter, wind turbine entrepreneur Mr Vince said UKLFI’s claims seemed to be “factually and logically challenged”.

He added: “Criticism of the state of Israel does not amount to racism in any form or to any degree. It is simply criticism of the state of Israel.

“Frequently supporters of Israel try to present such criticism as antisemitism, you do not do so here directly, but it is implied in my opinion. That is equally a false claim. It’s not for nothing that the situation [in Israel] is increasingly compared to apartheid.”

Responding to the letter, Mr Green said: “The content of Mr Vince’s letter, and its social-media means of delivery, seem intended solely for the appreciation of his own audience.

“It did not contain anything to address the issues raised in our letter. It was simply grandstanding.

“Mr Vince has an issue he wishes to grandstand and he is using his control of a football club to do so. That is against the rules of football, which we are requesting the FA to enforce.”   

Dale Vince told the JC: “For lawyers UKLFI seems incredibly detached from the facts. They claimed multiple rule breaches in their four-page letter to me, but there are clearly none.”

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