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In bid to kick out anti-Semitism, UK’s Premier League adopts IHRA definition

In doing so, 18 of 20 teams in top soccer group also back some references to Israel in its description of Jew-hatred

Manchester United's Paul Pogba scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP/Rui Vieira)
Manchester United's Paul Pogba scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, April 13, 2019. (AP/Rui Vieira)

The English Premier League, the most widely-watched soccer division in the world, announced on Thursday that it had adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which includes vitriol against Israel in its description of Jew hatred.

Along with the league itself, 18 of the top-flight’s 20 teams also committed to adopting the definition, in a move welcomed across the board by the UK Jewish community and anti-racism groups.

The Premier League said in a statement that the adoption of the definition was part of “its ongoing commitment to promote equality and diversity, and to combat discrimination of any form in football.”

Bill Bush, executive director of the league, said the move would “enable us to be more effective in dealing with any anti-Semitic behavior targeting our clubs or personnel.”

He said it was “the latest step in our continued work to ensure that football is a welcoming environment for all.”

A fan wearing a protective mask attends a soccer match between Liverpool and Bournemouth at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The IHRA definition calls anti-Semitism “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” that is “directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

It also includes “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination… by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

The parts of the definition that include Israel have come under fire in recent years, as some critics have said they stifle the free speech of protesters and activists.

In January, the West London club Chelsea became the first in the Premier League — and the first sports team in the world — to adopt the IHRA definition.

Labour MP John Mann with German Premier Angela Merkel at the International Coalition for Combating Antisemitism. (Courtesy)

Thursday’s announcement follows efforts spearheaded by the UK Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, Lord John Mann, who recently signed a letter alongside international counterparts to leading UK and European football clubs urging them to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Responding to the decision, Mann said the decision of the UK league “will rightly be heralded by the footballing community and clubs worldwide.

“I congratulate our Premier League for setting the global standard. I hope others will now step up and be counted,” he added.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, thanked both the league and Mann, calling the decision a “tremendous outcome.”

“The ugliness of anti-Semitism has no place in the beautiful game,” she said in a statement.

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement, which has pushed for wider adoption of the IHRA definition, said: “As the most popular competition in world football, the Premier League is sending a hugely important message to countless fans across the world, that there is absolutely no place for anti-Semitism in today’s world.”

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