“Antisemitism in sports is hardly a new phenomenon, but it has begun to draw major attention of late, due to a resurgence of ugly incidents and a growing awareness that xenophobia and hatred are on the rise, across the field.
But these demonstrations carry heavy weight, and signify a much more complex problem in desperate need of forceful corrective action. Far too often, intolerance darkens what should be a celebration of competitive spirit, and spirals into hateful violence, both in and out of the stands.
The World Jewish Congress has made a pointed effort to address this phenomenon in recent years, through diplomatic and educational means, and while we have met some play-by-play successes, it has become ever clearer that the fight must come from inside the stadium.
Chelsea F.C., and its owner Roman Abramovich, have taken a welcome lead in tackling this issue headon, to make clear to their extended community that expressions of hatred have no place in sports and that antisemitism must be recognized as a unique issue deserving of strong, tailor-made action. The football club drew a red line last autumn after the repeated use of gleeful and crass anti-Jewish slurs drew widespread rebuke, and by mid-January announced that it would launch an ambitious educational campaign to “say no to antisemitism,” partnering with Jewish organizations including the WJC to develop a comprehensive program to strike directly at the issue.
Its zero-tolerance approach is already making waves: just a week after officially launching its campaign on January 31 during a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in the presence of 40,000 fans, Chelsea F.C. responded to renewed antisemitic chants by vowing to take action – including outright bans – against fans guilty of using that language.
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