Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers has told MPs that antisemitism has no place in football and that clubs, the Premier League, the FA, and the police must do more to stamp it out.
Theresa, who has campaigned to tackle prejudice against the Jewish community over a long period, held a Westminster Hall debate into the issue yesterday. She tabled the debate following a discussion with Jonathan Metliss, of Action Against Discrimination, who has been highlighting this issue for many years.
She said that other forms of racism was also present in football and cited the abuse England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka faced on social media after the Euro 2020 final.
“Although much good work has been done to seek to drive racism out of football, it remains a problem in the game, as it does in wider society. I want to focus today on anti-Jewish racism. I feel that it does not get the attention it deserves, and that the gravity of the harm that it causes is not fully recognised.
The former Northern Ireland and Environment Secretary listed a raft of recent antisemitic offences, including the aftermath of the announcement of a proposed super league last year which prompted an outpouring of anti-Jewish hate on social media, much of it directed at the owners of Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs.
“Vile tropes and stereotypes were deployed, and Jews were accused of “ruining football”, she told MPs.
She also told of antisemitism within football grounds, including Nazi salutes and racist chants, often directed against Tottenham which has a history of Jewish support.
“We need much more serious consequences for racism and antisemitism where it is displayed in football grounds," she explained.
However, she said progress has been made with Chelsea announcing a “Say No To Antisemitism” campaign. In 2020, it became the first club to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.
In December 2020, the English Premier League also adopted the definition, and many clubs followed suit. The English Football League and the Football Association did so on Holocaust Memorial Day 2021.
“While these initiatives to root out antisemitism in football are very much to be welcomed, there is clearly more to be done. The professional game needs to take this issue much more seriously than it does currently. It needs to deploy far more resources to combating antisemitism, holding those responsible for it to account, and making it clear to its supporters that antisemitism is wholly unacceptable.
“That must include programmes aimed at ensuring supporters understand the issue better and are made aware of the hurt and harm caused by antisemitism. Urgent action is also needed to crack down on the online manifestation of football-related anti-Jewish racism.
“The police need to take action when those offences are committed. They need to take antisemitic crime in the football arena much more seriously than they do at the moment, and there needs to be enforcement against this kind of behaviour online, as well.”
“In July last year, the Government announced that football banning orders would be extended to cover racist attacks on footballers on social media, meaning online trolls could potentially be excluded from grounds for up to 10 years. The Prime Minister has called on tech companies to step up and take responsibility for what they publish.”
Theresa explained that she has campaigned since the 1980s to stop antisemitism, including being a co-author of the 2006 report of the all-party inquiry into antisemitism.
“I find it deeply disturbing that this toxic prejudice is still present in our society. It is distressing that that form of racism is directed against a community for which I have such a high regard and which plays a hugely positive role, alongside all the other communities, in the diverse constituency of Chipping Barnet which I am very proud to represent.
“Let the message go out from this House today that antisemitism has no place in English football. It will not be tolerated and those responsible for it will be brought to justice.”