Chelsea Football club have revealed plans to offer fans found to have been using discriminatory language a chance to take part in an educational visit to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz.
The programme, spearheaded by club owner Roman Abramovich, is designed to reduce antisemitism within the club in the long term, as opposed to the previous, shorter term solution of merely banning fans for a period of time.
In the words of the Club Chairman Bruce Buck, the policy will give fans ‘the chance to realise what they have done, to make them behave better.’ This will, in essence, educate the fans on why their actions were wrong in order to prevent future offences.
The initiative is not a standalone attempt to reduce antisemitism. It is in fact just the latest programme to be added to Chelsea’s ‘Say No to Antisemitism’ campaign, launched in January this year by the Chelsea Foundation as part of their on-going ‘Building Bridges’ project. Within this campaign, a wide range of educational programmes have been launched, aiming to root out this discriminatory behaviour, not only within the club, but within the surrounding community, as Bruce Buck states, ‘to make a dent in the antisemitism in this world’.
The Chelsea Foundation have enacted these programmes in collaboration with partners such as ‘The Holocaust Educational Trust’, ‘Kick It Out’ and ‘The World Jewish Congress’.
— Angela Epstein (@adepstein1) October 14, 2018
On the educational front, aside from the proposed trips to the Nazi extermination camps, the Foundation have engaged with young people in primary and secondary schools with talks and courses on the dangers of antisemitism, as well as educating them on the Jewish faith and culture, to increase awareness of the issues within the local community.
Beyond this, Chelsea have presented their initiatives to the Houses of Parliament, lending publicity and awareness to the cause. MP John Mann, for example, stated his hopes that other football clubs might ‘look at what Chelsea are doing and then think about what they could be doing’.
Indeed, while Chelsea’s actions are noble and important, antisemitism and discrimination within football are issues that need tackling on a larger scale. As scholar Jon Stratton has noted in his journal ‘Playing the Jew: anti-Semitism and football in the twenty-first century’, anti-Semitic practices within football have ‘become more vitriolic’ in the last 40 years. This is particularly the case towards clubs with Jewish backgrounds, such as Tottenham Hotspur, the German club Bayern Munich, and many more throughout Europe.
Chelsea’s example will no doubt reverberate throughout the footballing community, with organisations such as the ‘Football Supporters Federation’, which aims to represent the interests of English and Welsh supporters, backing the policies introduced by Chelsea and encouraging their widespread incorporation.
Such efforts will, if successful, significantly help to reduce the intolerable level of discrimination currently present within the game.