The chief executive of the Football Association (FA) has apologised for saying the Star of David was in the same category as the swastika.
FA CEO Martin Glenn released a statement in which he said: “I would like to apologise for any offence caused by the examples I gave when referring to political and religious symbols in football, specifically in reference to the Star of David, which is a hugely important symbol to Jewish people all over the world.”
Jewish Leadership Council’s CEO Simon Johnson, a former director of the FA, took to twitter to say: “I spoke to Martin Glenn Today. I explained why his comments yesterday has caused such serious offence. Martin apologised, explained the context for his comments and stated that he did not intend to cause offence, which I accepted. We have agreed to meet soon along with the CST. I have thanked the FA for their apology and I am glad that this has been dealt with swiftly.”
The comments he made over the weekend, were used in explaining how a committee had sought to clarify the kinds of religious and “divisive” symbols that should not be allowed in the game, after the England football team was told not to wear a poppy.
He said: “We have re-written Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK, but things that are going to be highly divisive, and that could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could be the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like (ex-Zimbabwe president) Robert Mugabe on your shirt, these are the things we don’t want.”
JLC CEO Simon Johnson reacted angrily, saying: “All religious symbols are prohibited on a kit if that is the case,” wrote Johnson on Twitter, adding that Glenn’s examples were “ill-judged and in poor taste”.
He said: “The Star of David is a Jewish religious symbol of immense importance to Jews worldwide. To put it in the same bracket as the swastika and Robert Mugabe is offensive and inappropriate. We will raise formally with the FA the Jewish community’s deep disappointment with this statement.”
John Mann MP, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Against Antisemitism, wrote to Martin Glenn, saying he was “concerned” by the incident.
“Aside from the naivety of these comments, which will have caused deep offence… I am deeply concerned that someone of your seniority should be in position without understanding the meaning and impact of comments like these.”
Mann invited Glenn to meet with him to “discuss your comments, their impact and what we need to do to ensure appropriate systems are in place, so that future executives receive effective training on equalities, racism and antisemitism.”
Karen Pollock , Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “I find these comments astounding – and highly offensive. It shows a huge lack of understanding around the difference between the Star of David – a religious symbol – and the swastika used by the Nazis.”
Kick It Out, a group tackling racism in football, welcomed the apology and added that “Glenn has contacted the organisation to clarify his comments on the Star of David and the Swastika symbol, and to reiterate his apology to the Jewish community in particular.”
Commentators have pointed out that the swastika was used in Hinduism and Buddhism for hundreds of years before the Nazis appropriated it in the 1920s. Likewise, the Israeli flag includes the Star of David, so banning the Star would mean banning the flag of a footballing nation.
Alex Goldberg, a Jewish student chaplain who also chairs the FA’s Faith in Football Network, on Sunday expressed surprise at Glenn’s comments, saying: “I will be writing to him in the morning.”
The issue of religious and political symbols being worn in football has been in the news again recently, after Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola refused to not wear a yellow ribbon, a symbol of Catalan independence.