John Mann has vowed that Chelsea’s pioneering stance on fighting anti-Semitism will heap pressure on the UK’s top politicians.
Chelsea on Friday became the world’s first football club to sign up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
Chairman Bruce Buck and manager Frank Lampard signed the pledge at the Blues’ Cobham training base, with the government’s independent adviser on anti-Semitism Lord Mann hailing a “powerful” step in the fight against discrimination.
Lord Mann, a former Labour MP, has now called on other top sports clubs and UK political organisations to sharpen their stances on anti-Semitism, and follow Chelsea’s lead.
In July 2018, Labour adopted a new anti-Semitism code which critics, including Jewish leaders and some Labour MPs, said fell unacceptably short of the IHRA definition. Following a consultation Labour subsequently adopted the full IHRA definition and examples.
Asked about the potential impact of a Premier League football club adopting the IHRA definition, Lord Mann replied: “This makes it much easier for people to say, ‘look, Chelsea have done this, why aren’t you doing it?’
“I’ve done that with universities in the last month, not broken any confidence but I’ve told them a major Premier League football club would be signing up to this. And I’ve said ‘if they can do it, why can’t you?’
“And that has got people in universities signing up to this declaration.
“It’s then for practical use, that HR people will be using, if there are incidents in the universities. It empowers Jewish students.
“And in terms of government, I’m independent of government, but if government’s not doing what it should be doing, my job to alter that is a damn sight easier because of today.
“I can go to a government minister, privately or publicly, and say ‘Chelsea have done this, they’ve done their bit, why aren’t you doing your bit?’ It makes it much easier to get progress.
“Who’s the target group? It’s not specifically Chelsea fans, it’s the general public. A great number of the general public associate with Chelsea, and that’s why this is so powerful.
“These small steps are incredibly important. There will be people whose attitudes have been changed already, because they will have had to discuss why.
“It changes people’s understanding. Being anti-racist is normal. Chelsea are just being normal.
“And this isolates those who don’t want to be normal, who want to abuse players, or kids in the street or whoever else. This has huge power.
“If government’s not doing what it should be, don’t you worry, this gives me even more power.
“I shall be visiting a number of clubs in the next few weeks, and I think others will sign up as well.”
Chelsea’s Say No to Anti-Semitism campaign has been running for two years, at the behest of owner Roman Abramovich.
The club has donated to the Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust galleries, raised $4million through a charity match in Boston and even sent supporters on the March for the Living at Auschwitz.
And this week British-Israeli artist Solomon Souza has completed a mural at Stamford Bridge paying tribute to three footballers sent to Nazi concentration camps in World War Two.
Chelsea manager Lampard hailed the club’s latest initiative on signing the IHRA pledge.
“I think it’s an important statement, we hope it makes an impact,” said Lampard.
“In simple terms as manager of the football club I’m proud the club makes such a strong stance against discrimination. Words are easy, actions are another thing; we’ve always been strong on that and always will be.”
The IHRA’s executive secretary Dr Kathrin Meyer added: “We commend this move by Chelsea; it’s a huge step.
“Football clubs are so influential and players are role models for millions. The influence cannot be underestimated.”