The Football Association has given Dave Whelan three days to respond after the governing body opened an investigation into reports he said “Jewish people chase money more than everybody else”.
Wigan FC owner Dave Whelan, a widely-respected businessman, made the comments in an interview with The Guardian while trying to defend the appointment of Malky Mackay as the team’s new manager.
The remarks come on the same day that the club’s sponsor ended its agreement in protest over Mackay’s recruitment to the championship team.
Mackay is under investigation by the Football Association for alleged racism and anti-Semitism over his email and text conversations with staff members while in charge of Cardiff City.
In one, Mackay describes the club’s Malaysian owner as a “chink” and in another he refers to the Jewish football agent, Phil Smith, saying: “Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers.”
Whelan, the multi-millionaire former owner of JJB Sports, said he didn’t think that was offensive because Mackay was only reflecting that Jewish people “love money” like everybody does.
He added: “The Jews don’t like losing money. Nobody likes losing money.”
Asked whether this was offensive, because the claim that Jews “love money” has been used as a negative stereotype, Whelan said: “Do you think Jewish people chase money a little bit more than we do? I think they are very shrewd people.”
Asked whether he really believed that, Whelan added: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.”
An FA spokesman told the Jewish News: “We are very concerned to read about the comments that have been attributed to Dave Whelan. We take all forms of discrimination seriously.
“As with all such cases, this will be dealt with as a priority. The investigation is already under way and The FA’s Governance Division have written to Mr. Whelan. He has three working days to respond.”
Simon Johnson, a former FA director and now chief executive at the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “Unfortunately Mr Mackay and now Mr Whelan have referred to some of the worst old-fashioned tropes which have been used in the past as the basis of anti-Semitism and stereotyping of Jewish people.”
He added: “Mackay used offensive language to insult a fellow participant in football using a tawdry racial stereotype.”
However, The Board is not satisfied, and Vice President said that “Wigan Chair Dave Whelan’s bigoted and racist comments about Jews are outrageous and offensive, and bring the club and the game in to disrepute. His half-hearted apology does not go far enough. You cannot insult a whole group of people, and then say, ‘I would never insult them’, and hope that’s OK. We need to see a proper apology and full recognition of the offence caused. Whelan, in his role as Chair of a football club, has a responsibility to set the tone for both his players and supporters. Racism and antisemitism will prevail on and off the pitch if it’s acceptable and unchallenged in the boardroom’. We will be taking up the matter with the Football Association and Kick It Out.”
From a spokesperson on behalf of the CST and Maccabi GB:
Dave Whelan’s comments invoked antisemitic stereotypes about Jews and money and his apology suggests that he still doesn’t understand why his comments were offensive. It is an indication of how widespread such outdated attitudes still are within football, and how much work needs to be done to eradicate this way of thinking.