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.”
The Labour MP went on: “We need to do much more to ensure that British football players can play the beautiful game without being subjected to unacceptable abuse.
“We need tougher sanctions against defenders, action by social media companies, better education about the plight of Jews.
“We need a zero tolerance policy which doesn’t allow for repeat offenders.”
Ms Villiers told MPs she was “disturbed” by the example cited by Mr Wakeford, adding: “The idea of people making hissing noises at seven-year-old Jewish footballers is just revolting. It is profoundly disturbing.
“And it is a real illustration that antisemitism remains a serious problem in football in our society.”
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.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.