The Director of Kick It Out has said she fears anti-Semitic abuse in football is only going to get worse – and cited the role social media plays in providing the platform for the abuse to take place.
Roisin Wood was speaking at Action Against Discrimination’s Q&A panel at JW3 on Thursday evening, which was entitled “Anti-Semitism in football – How serious is it now?”
The event, which was media partnered by Jewish News, assembled a stellar panel who spoke passionately about the subject – football journalists Henry Winter and Anthony Clavane, Jewish footballer Joe Jacobson, Brighton & Hove Albion chairman Tony Bloom and President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush.
The evening was chaired by AAD’s chairman Jonathan Metliss, which also turned into an at times, heated debate, when questions were opened up to the floor.
Addressing the audience, Wood said: “For us [Kick It Out] there is still a problem of anti-Semitism in football, as an organisation we recognise that football’s come a long way in the past 20 years, but we still have a long way to go.
“One of the biggest problems we have in dealing with anti-Semitism – and discrimination of all sorts – is social media. The anonymity that exists from behind a keyboard means it’s becoming an ever-increasing problem and it’s an issue we all have to grasp. There’s no easy solution, and I certainly don’t have the answer, but it’s a solution that has to come from both the social media providers, football clubs, the CPS and the police. We have to get the likes of Facebook and Twitter to take this seriously and do something about it.”
Accusing some of not taking the problem seriously, she said: “I would challenge both the government and CPS to take it seriously. Some forces get it, some don’t they don’t think it’s an issue. My big plea to the police force is for them to start training their officers around it, to actually understand what is anti-Semitic abuse.”
Saying she also wants to see changes made to make it easier to report incidents, she said: “I don’t think we see as much at grass roots level, but I think there’s under reporting at that level, I think people have to have greater confidence, for every person who does report an incident, I hear from others who say ‘What’s the point? What’s the point of going through the process, nothing has been done’.
“We very much are pushing people to report, but I recognise it’s also a hard process to report. I work with the FA to try and make the process faster and more transparent, and we have to make it better, both us and the FA.
“Joe was talking about the need to educate and that is something which runs through everything we do.
“We all have to work together on this, fans, players, clubs, bodies and government. Any hope of erasing this problem has to be based on reporting what’s happened, taking it seriously.
“I think we’re going to see more of it – and would be surprised if we didn’t.”
The debate also brought up the issue of the use of the ‘Y’ Word – of which the video produced by David Baddiel was shown at the start of the evening – with Arkush saying he believed the word should be outlawed in society, never mind the football arena. He said: “The reports and figures we’ve seen tonight are undoubtedly a depressing statistic. Some Jewish fans are happy to call themselves the ‘Y’ word, but that sort of language shouldn’t have any place on the football field, or anywhere else and we need to make sure we kick it out.”
Winter and Clavane spoke about their experiences of witnessing anti-Semitic abuse covering football both at home and abroad, and discussed trips the England football team paid to Auschwitz, while Wycombe Wanderers footballer Jacobson spoke how he believed education was a vital tool that was needed which would go some way to help preventing the abuse not only increasing, but could also go some way to stopping it in the first instance.
The evening was chaired by AAD’s Jonathan Metliss, who said: “The event was a great success. The principal purpose was to put the issue of anti- Semitism in football back on the radar screen and the community map, and we have succeeded.
Both the panel and the audience acknowledged that there was still a serious problem in this area, and that much more should, and could, be done by the relevant authorities to confront it. The purpose of AAD is to act as a catalyst and a force for change in combating anti-Semitism in football and we will be holding more events of this nature in the foreseeable future.”