The government’s independent adviser on antisemitism has urged other football clubs to emulate Chelsea’s campaign against antisemitism.
Lord John Mann warned his voice “will get more brutal” if more teams don’t start seriously tackling stadium racism.
He made his remarks at the launch of a giant mural honouring three footballers who imprisoned by the Nazis, by British-Israeli artist Solomon Souza, which is part of the club’s Say No To Antisemitism campaign.
The artwork was commissioned by owner Roman Abramovich ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January. It depicts Julius Hirsch, capped seven times for Germany, and Hungary winger Arpad Weisz. Both died at Auschwitz. It also portrays Ron Jones, a British prisoner of war who died last year aged 102.
Lord Mann told an audience of 150 people at Stamford Bridge: “If I thought doing is was a PR stunt I wouldn’t be here. It could have huge ramifications in the fight against hate. I want other premier league clubs to follow Chelsea’s lead and speak out . I have a voice and it will get more brutal if they don’t.”
During the event, chaired by Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer, club captain Cesar Azpilicueta, midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Chelsea Women’s star Anita Assante reflected on the importance of educating their fans against intolerance.
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) January 15, 2020
Azpilicueta said: “This mural means a lot. It’s three people who loved football. It’s important to make people aware of the issues. We are doing more and more and I’m proud to be an ambassador, to meet survivors. I hope we can keep fighting because every step matters. We’re going the right way.”
Loftus-Cheek added: “There are lots of kids who look up to us and we’re doing our bit to kids educate them. I’m a to play for this club. I want to do as much as I can to fight antisemitism and racism.”
Bruce Buck, chairman of Chelsea FC, reaffirmed the club’s commitment to the project, saying it was “never ending” with “no time frame”. He added: “Maybe if antisemitism stops we’ll stop – but that’s not likely in our lifetime. It’s a very important project for Roman.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, reflected on the importance of this year’s memorial day, saying: “We have to explain what happens when hate goes unchecked”.
Sharon Bar-Li, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK, also took part in a panel.
Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who introduced Chelsea to mural artist Souza, said: The art scene in Jerusalem is recognised globally as avant-guard and diverse. I am proud to have been closely involved in bringing a piece of it to Chelsea Football Club as part of their campaign against antisemitism.”
The evening’s keynote speech was given by Isaac Herzog, chair of the Jewish Agency.