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

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.

The Duke of Cambridge attends a session at the Equaliser football programme, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
The Duke of Cambridge attends a session at the Equaliser football programme, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with Bury South MP Christian Wakeford, who defected from the Conservatives to Labour in January.

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.

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