UK health club responds to anti-Semitic shirt
Virgin Active apologizes after member is seen wearing Arsenal shirt saying "We 8 Yids" on the back.
'We 8 Yids' Arsenal football jersey Photo: Anonymous
LONDON – A popular chain of health clubs in the UK has apologized and condemned
the use of a football shirt worn by a member with an anti- Semitic slogan after
causing offense to a Jewish member.
Last Tuesday evening, a complaint was
lodged with Virgin Active health club in Borehamwood – in Hertfordshire, around
25 km. north of central London – after a man at the club was seen wearing an
Arsenal football shirt saying “We 8 Yids” (meaning “We hate Yids”) on the
The reference to “Yids” is associated to a football rivalry between
the north London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, who are known to have a
huge Jewish support base.
Jonathan Metliss, member of the advisory group
Kick Racism Out of Football, said that “regrettably” it was another example of
anti-Semitic behavior in British football.
“Tottenham Hotspur supporters
call themselves “Yiddos” and this has been used by unsavory groups to denigrate
Jews generally, including Israelis,” he said.
“Yossi Benayoun, while
playing for Liverpool, was described as a “Yiddo” by Chelsea supporters. The
practical problem is that Premier League clubs do not appear to show either the
desire or the will to combat this behavior and Arsenal is one of the better
ones,” he said.
“Nobody should tolerate or make excuses for public
expressions such as this, even if lies within a specific football rivalry in
which many Spurs fans refer to themselves as ‘Yids,’” said Mark Gardner, from
the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti- Semitism. “CST
opposes this language within the football stadium and most certainly outside it
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was shocked
and upset when she saw the man get on a treadmill in front of her at the
“I was astonished to see “We 8 Yids” on the back, he was being so
brazenly offensive in a gym with a high percentage of Jewish members,” she
“I am shocked that someone would have that printed on any shirt,
let alone wear it in such a public place.”
She reported the incident to
staff, who she said were very understanding.
They responded immediately
searching for the member seen wearing the item of clothing.
that while not normally easily offended, and while understanding the football
connotations, I found it totally unacceptable. I asked them to speak to him and
ensure he did not wear it again.
“Football banter or not there is
absolutely no place for this sort of blatantly offensive attitude towards Jews,”
she told The Jerusalem Post.
Danny Kessler, a Tottenham Hotspur season
ticket holder who has an excellent understanding of the rivalry between the two
clubs, said it was offensive and a clear case of rivalry taken too
“Unfortunately there are some individuals who take a tribal football
chant too far and seeing someone having gone to the trouble to get this printed
on their backs is beyond belief, as well as it being highly stupid and
offensive,” he said.
Virgin Active, who have 122 health clubs across the
UK, told the Post that a full report has been filed on the incident and that
staff at the health club are working hard to identify the member.
Active does not condone or permit the wearing of offensive or inappropriate
clothing in its clubs and takes such incidents very seriously.
Active operates a zero tolerance policy to any form of discrimination, including
that of a racial context and apologizes for any offense caused,” a Virgin Active
The incident was also condemned by Arsenal Football Club,
who last year were integral to a campaign called “Kick It Out,” aimed at
addressing anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish abuse within a football
“Arsenal Football Club does not tolerate discrimination of any
sort at the club,” a spokesman told the Post on Thursday. “Through the ‘Arsenal
for Everyone’ initiative, the club celebrates the diversity of its
He added: “Arsenal encourages supporters to report any forms
of discrimination at Emirates Stadium and takes a zero tolerance approach to
The north London club has also worked with the
Anne Frank Trust and has a project called “Arsenal in the Galilee,” which brings
together Jewish and Muslim children through football in Israel.