A Jewish community leader has said that banning a football club owner for making anti-Semitic remarks has set an “important precedent” insofar as it now means the offender’s intentions are “irrelevant”.
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and a former director at the Football Association, welcomed the move by his ex-employer, saying it “moves us towards strict liability for racism cases” in the sport.
“It builds upon the important precedent set by the [former West Brom striker] Nicolas Anelka case that, if someone uses racist words or actions, their intention is irrelevant,” he said. “What is important is whether the words or actions are racist.”
That change in emphasis could have a profound effect on deterrence, said Johnson, speaking after Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan was given a six-match ban and £50,000 fine for saying that “Jews chase money more than other people”.
Johnson said: “With this decision, the FA has confirmed that it is moving towards strict liability for racism cases and that development is to be welcomed by all those who are dedicated to seeing racism kicked out of football.
“The clear statement that racism is now a strict liability offence within football, which, in itself, will have more deterrent value than will be provided by a simplistic analysis of the level of punishment.”
This week the club were keeping tight-lipped over whether Whelan would appeal, but Johnson said the sanction was “proportionate and appropriate for the circumstances”.