The Premier League adopts the IHRA definition of antisemitism

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The Premier League adopts the IHRA definition of antisemitism

Jewish leaders and antisemitism experts welcome the 'very important' move backed by all top clubs apart from Sheffield United

Chelsea launched its campaign to tackle antisemitism in January 2018
Chelsea launched its campaign to tackle antisemitism in January 2018

The Premier League has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in what Jewish leaders and antisemitism experts described as a “very important” move.

England’s foremost football league was credited by the Government’s antisemitism advisor Lord Mann and Jewish Leadership Council chair Jonathan Goldstein as the news was announced on Thursday morning.

The vast majority of Premier League clubs – including Tottenham Hotspur – also signed up to the IHRA definition, with the exception of Sheffield United. Spurs is a focus point because its fans affectionately call themselves the ‘Yid Army’, a term some Jewish groups say is offensive.

In a statement, a club spokesman said: “As a club, we have worked within the guidelines of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism for many years and it is a key part of our steward training. Moving forward, we shall formally adopt this working definition across all our operations.”

‘Yid Army’ banner held aloft by Spurs fans

Representatives of the Jewish community in Leeds paid tribute to the city’s club for signing up, while Newcastle United said it was planning to use its adoption of the IHRA definition “to build engagement with the local Jewish community”, starting with the next Holocaust Memorial Day.

Bill Bush, executive director of the Premier League, said the move would “enable us to be more effective in dealing with any antisemitic behaviour targeting our clubs or personnel… It is the latest step in our continued work to ensure that football is a welcoming environment for all”.

Mann said the adoption “will be rightly heralded by the footballing community and clubs worldwide… I congratulate the Premier Leader for setting the global standard”.

Goldstein said: “In a year when football is rightly tackling racism, this commitment to understand and combat anti-Jewish racism ensures we all play our part.”

Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies fo British Jews said: “We thank the Premier League and its clubs for adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The ugliness of antisemitism has no place in the beautiful game. Our gratitude also goes to  Lord John Mann for his indefatigable work towards this tremendous outcome.”

Karen PollocK, Chief Executive, Holocaust Educational Trust called it “excellent news”, saying “no racism is acceptable in society and that includes on the football pitch.”

She said adopting IHRA “sends a strong and clear message that there is zero tolerance for anti-Jewish racism on our grounds and on our terraces.

“We are proud that after so many years working with leading football clubs educating about the Holocaust and where hate can lead, that we can build on this positive step together.

Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27th January next year, we join the call to those clubs who have not yet signed up, and those in other leagues, to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism”

Sanjay Bhandari from Kick It Out, a group focused on tackling racism in sport, said: “It’s very important because the Premier League is a massive global brand. It’s setting an example. We’re calling on the whole of football to follow their lead.”

Mann, who chaired the Football Association’s taskforce on Islamophobia and antisemitism, agreed that the league’s profile was key. “The reach of the Premier League clubs is far greater than that of Donald Trump,” he said.

“The key use of this definition is for things that do not meet the criminal threshold. It will help stewards know what is and isn’t antisemitic and when to have a word [for fans]. This can include things like insignia.”

He also praised Chelsea Football Club, owned by Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich, for taking a lead on tackling antisemitism. “Chelsea have been challenging their supporter base with success,” he said.

Martin Berliner, the outgoing chair of Maccabi GB, welcomed the news. “It has taken two decades to get to this point,” he said. “We have had to try to explain why certain comments are antisemitic. Now we have a guiding light.”

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