Chelsea chiefs have pledged to continue to fight discrimination despite a “disappointing” rise in anti-Semitism in football.
Owner Roman Abramovich suffered unprecedented abuse on social media, totaling nearly 3,000 posts in May, coinciding with anti-Semitism and racism in the UK amid the conflict in the Middle East.
President Bruce Buck has revealed Chelsea owner Abramovich’s dismay at the rising tide of anti-Semitism – but insisted the longtime Stamford Bridge goalkeeper remains outspoken in his and the club’s attempt to fight against discrimination.
Chelsea have launched a three-year partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as part of their latest Say No to Anti-Semitism initiatives, exposing the scale of the abuses directed against Abramovich.
“Mr Abramovich was certainly disappointed in a wider sense, not only because things were directed to him, but because of what was going on in general,” Chelsea chairman Buck said. “And I think that’s how everyone at the club felt.
“In a way, charting all of this can be depressing, but in a way, it’s also very promising.
“And I hope that the hope will last longer than the sadness.
“It has not been an easy time for those who have struggled against discrimination for the past year and a half.
“But it’s also important to remember that when we stand up for what we believe in and causes like this, it leads to good things.”
Chelsea hosted a seminar on anti-Semitism and football at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, where industry leaders came together to chart the way forward in tackling racism and discrimination.
Pledging to help other big football clubs reflect their initiatives, Buck continued: “Honestly, we are not interested in taking all kinds of credit for this, we would like to share all of our resources, all of our thoughts, even some of our people for other clubs, to engage in similar or dissimilar activities related to the fight against discrimination.
“The only way it’s really going to work is if there’s a geometric multiplier in there.
“We’ll be happy if we can move the needle a bit, it’s a really big deal and Chelsea won’t fix this on their own.
“And a lot of people need to be involved and that’s what we would really like to see.”
Senior Vice President of International Affairs Sharon Nazarian spoke about the US organization ADL’s partnership with Chelsea.
Nazarian described Chelsea’s pioneering work with the almost four-year-long Say No to Anti-Semitism campaign.
Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett also praised Chelsea’s stance on tackling anti-Semitism, promising that the anti-discrimination organization will now seek to follow the Blues’ lead.
“A club as big as Chelsea are taking the stance they have taken on these issues, that’s great,” Burnett said.
“It’s a shining light, and it gives us the opportunity to follow in the wake.
“But we are going to do more on anti-Semitism because not enough has been done in football.
“We have a role model to follow now, and we can hopefully add to that as well.
“We really hope that we can build something lasting that can bring about real change in the fight against anti-Semitism.
“Historically, it has been alleged that Kick It Out was formed to combat racism against black players and coaches.
“But we are convinced that you cannot fight just one form of discrimination, because discrimination is bad in all its forms.
“We looked at our strategy and realized that we were not doing enough on anti-Semitism and brought together a group of stakeholders with extensive experience in this area.
“And we want to take concrete action, we want to eradicate discrimination and we want to call it out when it happens.
“Success for us looks like fewer examples of anti-Semitism, but it’s also much more vocal opposition when we see anti-Semitic incidents in football.”
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Kick It Out is the organization of football for equality and inclusion – working across the football, education and community sectors to fight discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change .