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Anger as FA chief Martin Glenn likens Star of David to swastika

Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, described Martin Glenn's remarks as "ill judged and in poor taste"

    Martin Glenn described the Star of David as
    Martin Glenn described the Star of David as "highly divisive" (Photo: Getty Images)

    Martin Glenn, the chief executive of the Football Association (FA), has apologised for likening the Star of David to swastikas and images of Robert Mugabe.

    He made the comments after the FA charged Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for wearing a yellow ribbon. The administrative body bans the display of poltical symbols during matches.

    Guardiola has argued it is a symbol of solidarity with imprisoned Catalan leaders, rather than one of support for the region's independence.

    Mr Glenn asked: “Where do you draw the line? Should we have someone with a UKIP badge, someone with an Isis badge?”

    He added: “Things that are going to be highly divisive, and that could be strong religious symbols - it could be the Star of David, it could the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like Robert Mugabe on your shirt - these are the things we don't want."

    After his comments were met with criticism, Mr Glenn apologised and pledged to contact the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and Kick It Out directly.

    Mr Glenn said: "I would like to apologise for any offence caused by the examples I gave when referring to political and religious symbols in football, specifically in reference to the Star of David, which is a hugely important symbol to Jewish people all over the world.

    "I will be speaking with the Jewish Leadership Council and to Kick It Out to personally apologise."

    Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the JLC, confirmed this afternoon that he had accepted Mr Glenn's apology.

    He had earlier condemned the “poor taste” of Mr Glenn’s remarks, saying comparing the Magen David to the swastika and images of Robert Mugabe was "offensive and inappropriate".

    Mr Johnson said: “I spoke to Martin Glenn today. I explained why his comments yesterday has (sic) caused such serious offence. Martin apologised, explained the context for his comments and stated that he did not intend to cause offence, which I accepted.

    “We have agreed to meet soon along with the CST. I have thanked the FA for their apology and I am glad that this has been dealt with swiftly.”

    Kick It Out, an organisation which tackles discrimination in football, said it welcomed Mr Glenn's apology, saying that he contacted the group to "reiterate his apology to the Jewish community in particular".

     

     

    David Bernstein, the FA chairman from 2011 until 2013, told the JC: “It was unfortunate, to put it politely, that anybody could have the ignorance to put together in the same sentence the Star of David and the swastika, and all its connotations.”

    James Masters, a sports journalist, described Mr Glenn's remarks as "hugely insensitive", pointing out that Wingate and Finchley FC, who play in the seventh tier of English football, use the Star of David in their badge. 

    John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw and chair of the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism, also condemned Mr Glenn’s comments, posting a letter to Twitter in which he requested an “urgent meeting” with the FA chief executive.

    It read: “Aside from the naivety of these comments, which will have caused deep offense, in particular to the Jewish community, I am deeply concerned that someone of your seniority should be in position without understanding the meaning and impact of comments like these.

    “I am writing therefore to invite you to meet colleagues and me, as soon as possible, to discuss your comments, the impact and what we need to do to ensure appropriate systems are in place so that future executives receive effective training on equalities, racism and antisemitism.”

    Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, also weighed in, describing Mr Glenn's comments as "astounding and highly offensive".

    She added: "It shows a huge lack of understanding around the difference between the Star of David - a religious symbol - and the swastika used by the Nazis.”

    Alex Goldberg, who has chaired the FA’s Faith in Football advisory network, told the JC that Mr Glenn’s comments do not reflect FA policy, but said it was worrying that its chief executive would make such a statement.

    Mr Goldberg, a chaplain at the University of Surrey, said: “It’s disappointing to hear someone in such a senior position make comments like that. They were extremely culturally insensitive and inappropriate.

    “It sounds as if his apology was heartfelt but I honestly don’t know what he was trying to say, or what was in his head. It shows the FA need to works more on cultural awareness.”

    Martin Berliner, the chief executive of sports organisation Maccabi GB, which features a Magen David on its crest, said he was “horrified” by Martin Glenn’s comments, saying he “should know better”.

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