English soccer team launches campaign to fight anti-Semitism

Chelsea club launches 'Say No to Anti-Semitism' campaign aimed at discouraging anti-Semitism among its players and fans.

JTA and Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Chelsea launches 'Say No to Anti-Semitism' campaign
Chelsea launches 'Say No to Anti-Semitism' campaign
Shahar Azran

England’s Chelsea soccer team yesterday, Wednesday, launched an initiative aimed at discouraging anti-Semitism among its players and fans.

The club is partnering with the Anne Frank House, London’s Jewish Museum, the Holocaust Educational Trust and other organizations to provide workshops on the Jewish culture in primary schools. It will also launch an education program for fans who have been banned from games for perpetuating anti-Semitism.

Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, and Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, are among those leading a steering committee for the project.

Ahead of yesterday's Premier League game against Bournemouth at London's Stamford Bridge Stadium, the Chelsea club kicked off its new campaign, covering the pitch's center circle with a giant banner reading "Say No to Anti-Semitism," and broadcasting a video on jumbo screens promoting the campaign.

Left to right: Chief Rabbi of UK Ephraim Mirvis, Gadi Arieli, Roman Abramovich, Ron Lauder, Robert Singer (Photo: Shahar Azran / World Jewish Congress)

"When I first came to Chelsea, I had two ambitions: to create world-class teams on the pitch; and to ensure the club plays a positive role in all its communities, using football as a vehicle to inspire and engage," Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich wrote in the matchday program for the game.

"It has always been important to me to create a club that is welcoming to everyone. We actively celebrate our cultural and religious diversity and, through the work of the Chelsea Foundation, deliver programs to promote equality and tackle discrimination all over the world. However, we are all too often reminded there is more to be done.

"Tonight’s game is an important one. On 27 January, the world observed Holocaust Memorial Day. The Holocaust was a crime without parallel in history. We must never forget such atrocities and must do our utmost to prevent them from ever happening again. It is my honor to dedicate this match to the victims of the Holocaust and to the Jewish community.

"This evening I am proud to launch an initiative to raise awareness of and to tackle antisemitism in all its forms, and hope to have your support for this work.

"This is the start of an important journey and we all have a part to play. We can all do something to challenge discrimination at our club as well as within the world around us. With your help, Chelsea can play a leading role in this vital area of work and demonstrate to everybody that we are a club open to all."

Supporters of the popular London-based Chelsea Football Club, which typically boasts a star-studded lineup and has won several English Premier League championships, have been accused of anti-Semitism on multiple occasions.

In 2013, Yossi Benayoun, an Israeli midfielder who played for Chelsea at the time, said that he experienced verbal anti-Semitic abuse from fans of his own team. In 2016, Chelsea fans on a London subway were caught singing vulgar chants at fans of the Tottenham team, which has been historically known to have many Jewish fans.

Earlier this season, Chelsea fans included the name of a newly signed Spanish player in their anti-Semitic slurs during a game against Leicester City. The player, Alvaro Morata, asked fans on Twitter to “respect everyone.”