EXCLUSIVE: Chair of the Football Association’s Faith in Football group resigns in protest

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EXCLUSIVE: Chair of the Football Association’s Faith in Football group resigns in protest

Rabbi Alex Goldberg told the FA that the group will no longer continue to work with it, in protest at the FA’s stance over honouring the victims of the Hamas attack on Israel.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium

The chair of the Football Association’s Faith in Football group, Rabbi Alex Goldberg, has resigned and has told the FA that the group will no longer continue to work with it, in protest at the FA’s stance over honouring the victims of the Hamas attack on Israel.

In an impassioned letter to the chief executive of the FA, Mark Bullingham, Rabbi Goldberg said he was “profoundly disappointed in the FA’s decision not to have a specific tribute during the upcoming matches against Australia and Italy at Wembley Stadium, to the victims of the worst single atrocity committed against Jewish targets since the Shoah”.

Rabbi Goldberg, who has worked with the FA for 16 years, told Mark Bullingham that “it’s imperative that our responses and actions, especially in international platforms like those at Wembley Stadium, are unequivocal in their support for the victims of such atrocities.

“Your formula looks like a form of moral equivalence, which is just not appropriate this week. The decision not to light up the [Wembley] arch has been received badly tonight within the community, where attacks on Jews in England have already gone up three-fold. Many see the statement —only to permit flags and representations of the competing nations — as eradicating Jewish symbols and it has compounded grievances with the gravity of the recent events — but also inadvertently neglects the security and emotional well-being of Jewish fans who may be in attendance”.

The rabbi, who told the FA he was also writing “as a rabbi, as a father of children living in Israel”, said that the FA’s decision not to mark the murders more specifically had been made “in light of the global solidarity shown in response to the tragic murder of 1,000 civilians in Israel, encompassing all ages and walks of life —including 17 British citizens — that saw Downing Street, the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building lit up in blue and white”.

Rabbi Goldberg said he was breaking the formal link between the Faith in Football group and the FA, but would “continue to service the football family, through the Premier League and Football League clubs that we currently support at an elite level and the grassroots game as Faith in Football”. He told Jewish News that he was leaving “with huge regret in my heart”, but pledged to go on with his work in “creating programmes for schools, bringing faith communities into the football family and developing frameworks to advise county FA’s leagues and clubs on best practice”.

Rabbi Goldberg added that “planned gestures of wearing black armbands and observing a moment of silence are respectful; however, they may not fully convey the depth of solidarity and support necessary for the communities affected, both directly and indirectly, by these atrocious acts of violence, nor help give reassurance to Jews being attacked in this country now”.

The rabbi said he “strongly urged a reassessment of the FA’s stance on this matter”. He added that he was “disappointed” not to have been consulted on a planned “downsizing” of a Chanukah party due to take place at Wembley.

A copy of the rabbi’s protest has gone to Lucy Frazer, the government’s sport and culture secretary.

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