British MP warns Jewish children are receiving antisemitic abuse on the football pitch

Christian Wakeford, a Labour MP, has warned antisemitism is rife even at junior level in football, with reports of seven-year-old Jewish players being hissed at by their opponents as a way to replicate the noise of the gas chambers.

Christian Wakeford urged the Government to do “much more” to ensure that British football players can play their “beautiful game” without being subjected to unacceptable abuse.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on antisemitism and other forms of racism in football, the Bury South MP warned there are examples of antisemitism everywhere in football, even at junior level.

He described the reports of young Jewish players being hissed at by their opponents as “truly shameful, shocking and abhorrent”.

Conservative former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, who led the debate, said the idea of people making hissing noises at seven-year-old Jewish footballers is “just revolting” and “profoundly disturbing”.

She insisted it is a “real illustration that antisemitism remains a serious problem in football”.

Culture minister Nigel Huddleston acknowledged there is “still more to do” but assured MPs the Government is committed to continue to work with football authorities to “combat racism, discrimination and antisemitism both in person and online, from grassroots to the boardroom”.

Mr Wakeford, who defected from the Tory Party earlier this year, said: “We see examples of antisemitism in football everywhere.

“Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is of course home to a large Jewish population and rival supporters have used a pejorative term, as it has been mentioned in this debate already, with little consequences for doing so.

“West Ham fans find themselves banned from attending club games after they sang antisemitic songs on a commercial flight…”

He added: “Even at grassroots and junior football, I have heard local reports from Maccabi, whose Jewish players, some only seven years of age, being hissed at by players on the opposite side, which was to replicate the noise of the gas chambers.

“And I am sure we can all agree it’s truly shameful, shocking and abhorrent.”

Mr Huddleston said the Government and its arm’s-length bodies in sport, Sport England and UK Sport, have worked closely with football authorities and the sector to ensure that tackling all forms of racism and discrimination remains “an absolute priority”.

However, he noted there is “still more to do”, adding: “And you have my assurance that the Government is committed to continue to work with football authorities to combat racism, discrimination and antisemitism both in person and online. From grassroots to the boardroom.”

The debate was initiated by Villiers following a recent meeting with Action against Discrimination’s Jonathan Metliss.

related

Subscribe to the EJC newsletter

Get the EJC newsletter, including the latest statements and news from the European Jewish communities, direct to your inbox.

European Jewish Congress will use the information you provide on this form to contact you. We will treat your information with respect and will not share it with others. By clicking Subscribe, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

browse by community