LONDON - English Premier League giant Chelsea is sending fans banned for anti-Semitism on diversity training courses that could end up with visits to Nazi concentration camps, the club said this week.
The initiative for fans guilty of non-criminal racist acts is part of owner Roman Abramovich's ongoing initiative to stamp out anti-Semitism, according to chairman Bruce Buck. The club has already organised two visits to concentration camps as part of its efforts to raise awareness of the issue, and fans on the voluntary diversity course could be invited on future trips.
"If you just ban the people, you will never change their behaviour," Buck said in comments reported by The Sun. "This policy gives them the chance to realise what they have done, to make them want to behave better."
The club has previously criticised pockets of its own fans over anti-Semitic chants directed at bitter London rivals Tottenham, a club with a large Jewish fanbase. Abramovich, who is himself Jewish, demanded a plan to deal with the issue, resulting in club delegations twice visiting the Auschwitz camp. Holocaust survivors Harry Spiro and Mala Tribich have both shared their stories at events hosted by the club as part of the initiative, which is backed by Jewish leaders.
"Following a proposal raised at our Fans' Forum, the club is launching an education programme for supporters banned for anti-Semitic behaviour, as well as helping them to understand the impact of their actions, with participation in the course potentially leading to a reduction in the length of their ban," the club said in a statement.
"Hearing from a survivor, learning about the Holocaust, and understanding what language constitutes hate speech, all contribute to a better understanding and greater awareness of what anti-Semitism is and how to combat it," said Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust. "Through this initiative Chelsea are making a real commitment in fighting this issue within the game and the wider community," she added.AFP