Chelsea Football Club’s Buck explains the club's fight against antisemitism

Chelsea has hosted a number of Holocaust survivors who met with players and fans and spoke about their experiences.

June 13, 2019 17:02
4 minute read.
Chelsea Football Club’s Buck explains the club's fight against antisemitism

THE CHELSEA FOOTBALL Club visits the Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston last month.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Why would one of England’s most famous football clubs be involved in the fight against antisemitism?

“We are trying to use the power of football to make a difference,” explains Bruce Buck, Chelsea Football Club’s chairman.

In January 2018, Chelsea unveiled its “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign to raise awareness of and educate players, staff, fans and the community at large about antisemitism.

“Football is the world’s most popular sport,” he explains. “Antisemitism and racism are on the rise around the world. As a global brand with over 500 million supporters worldwide, we feel that we have a responsibility to fight against discrimination, whether it’s on the pitch, in the stands or in society.”

Buck notes that the origins of the campaign date to November 2017, when Chelsea owner Roman Abramovitch called a meeting of Chelsea directors to discuss the reemergence of antisemitism across Europe. “Everyone left the meeting knowing that something had to be done,” says Buck.
Buck explains that Chelsea’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign places a major focus on education.

“Our belief at Chelsea is that education is a vital tool to combat hatred in all its forms,” he says.

Chelsea has articulated this vision in a practical way by sending delegations of young players and staff to visit Auschwitz, together with the Holocaust Educational Trust, a London-based charity that educates young people about the Holocaust. Last year, Chelsea became the first Premier League team to send a delegation to the March of the Living in Poland. This year, Chelsea participated again, sending a delegation of 30 people, together with the New England Revolution soccer team from the United States.

Buck says that the feedback from these trips has been outstanding.

“The most striking responses we have received have been from the players from our Academy (youth league) who joined the March. They found the experience of visiting Auschwitz incredibly moving and completely different from learning or reading about it at school. They are taking these experiences back with them to share with their teammates, friends and family.”

As part of the campaign, Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich has recently donated to the Imperial War Museum for their new Holocaust Galleries section. As well, Buck says, the Chelsea Foundation, one of the world’s leading football social responsibility programs, has provided diversity and inclusion training at schools and colleges around the United Kingdom.

“Over the past two years,” Buck continues, “we have also carried out a number of educational activities in collaboration with our partners, and have used our social media following, which numbers 100 million, to spread our message – that antisemitism, like any form of discrimination, has no place in football or in our communities.”

Chelsea has hosted a number of Holocaust survivors who met with players and fans and spoke about their experiences.

“Our players and staff have been extremely supportive of the initiative,” he says. “It has been an eye-opening experience for us all. I attended the visit with Harry Spiro, a survivor whose entire family perished in the Holocaust, and watched as the players sat in silence for over 40 minutes, captivated and very emotional at Harry’s inspiring life story.”

 CHELSEA FC chairman Bruce Buck displays the logo of Chelsea’s ‘Say No to Antisemitism’ campaign (Credit: CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB)

Recently, Chelsea visited Boston to play a charity game against the New England Revolution. The match was part of a joint effort between the Kraft Family Foundation and Abramovich to raise awareness of antisemitism and raise funds for projects promoting equality and tolerance. All proceeds from ticket sales went toward projects promoting equality and tolerance. In addition, Abramovich and Mr. Kraft each donated $1 million in support of the cause.

As a result of this partnership, $4 million will be distributed among 15 organizations fighting antisemitism and discrimination, including the World Jewish Congress, the Tree of Life synagogue, the Anti-Defamation League and the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Buck says that Chelsea’s campaign is just the beginning.

“There is no place for antisemitism – or any form of racism – in any sport,” he says. “We know that there is a lot of work to be done, which is the reason we started this campaign, and why we are putting so much effort into it. We believe that one of the ways to make a change is by harnessing and collaborating with other organizations and clubs across all sports to improve our ability to educate the wider public and supporters. Change will not happen overnight, but we are making gradual progress – and every improvement counts.”

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