A leading Muslim politician campaigning against antisemitic chanting at Chelsea Football Club has been told that fans who shout “We hate Yids!” about Tottenham fans are not expressing hatred of Jews.
Chelsea has rejected the proposal of the Labour London Assembly member, Murad Qureshi, that the club should introduce an anti-racism programme for fans and stewards to show it is taking the problem seriously
Mr Qureshi wrote to Ron Gourlay, Chelsea’s chief executive, in November, after attending a match as part of a delegation organised by the campaign group Show Racism the Red Card.
“I was dismayed to hear clear antisemitic chanting from Chelsea supporters in the Matthew Harding stand,” he said. He reported that a Chelsea season-ticket holder told him this was a regular occurrence at the club’s west London stadium, Stamford Bridge.
Edward Ashwell, Chelsea’s head of security, replied: “The problem of antisemitic chanting at Stamford Bridge is not as clear cut as it might be. Tottenham Hotspur supporters call themselves ‘the Yids’ and when some Chelsea supporters chant ‘We hate Yids’ they do not mean ‘We hate Jewish people’, they actually mean ‘We hate Tottenham supporters’ much in the same way as they chant ‘We hate Leeds’ .”
Mr Ashwell emphasised that the club did not condone this behaviour. He added: “It is not easy to deal with when a large number of people are taking part, but we try to identify the ringleaders and eject and/or arrest them as an example.”
An astonished Mr Qureshi wrote back to the club, this time copying in Chelsea’s Jewish owner Roman Abramovich, to say that he did not accept the club’s explanation.
He said the club failed to recognise the explicitly antisemitic nature of chants at the club. “One chant starts: ‘he’s only a poor little Yiddo’ and continues by saying that ‘he goes to the bar to buy a drink and only buys one for himself’. Another involves the line ‘running round Tottenham with his foreskin hanging out’”.
Last month Mr Gourlay, on behalf of Mr Abramovich, responded to Mr Qureshi’s concerns, confirming that the club vigorously opposed racist chanting.
Mr Qureshi told the JC he was disappointed by Chelsea’s response. “They need to take this far more seriously. Chelsea fans themselves know this is a problem. We mustn’t forget older forms of racism when dealing with new ones such as Islamophobia.”
Chelsea’s official spokesman Simon Taylor, who said Mr Ashwell did not speak for the club, said: “We have been focusing our efforts to make it clear to our fans that chanting of this nature is discriminatory, offensive and totally unacceptable. Chelsea has a zero tolerance policy towards such behaviour.”