UK soccer club owner ready to resign after anti-Semitic comments

Dave Whelan, owner of Wigan Athletic, said in an interview "I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else, I do not think that’s offensive at all.”

By JERRY LEWIS
November 23, 2014 01:12
3 minute read.
Dave Whelan

Wigan Athletic's chairman and owner Dave Whelan. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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LONDON – Dave Whelan, owner of Wigan Athletic whose comments about Jews and the Chinese have led to charges that he is both anti-Semitic and racist, yesterday offered to resign if a forthcoming Football Association investigation finds him guilty.

His problems started on Thursday when part of an interview Whelan gave to The Guardian’s sports correspondent David Conn was published during which he said, “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else, I do not think that’s offensive at all.”

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Initially triggering the saga was a decision last week to appoint controversial former Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay to oversee Wigan Athletic.

Mackay, whom Cardiff fired in December, subsequently applied for a similar vacancy at Crystal Palace in August, but when The Daily Mail published the texts of some of his messages to his then assistant coach, a number of which were considered offensive, they decided not to employ him.

Mackay had referred to Cardiff City’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan using the derogatory term “chink,” and said of Jewish football agent Phil Smith, “Nothing like a Jew who sees money slipping through his fingers.”

Last Wednesday at a joint press conference called to announce his appointment as Wigan’s manager, Whelan was asked if he found anything wrong in Mackay’s messages and replied that as far as he was concerned there was “not a lot wrong” with anything Mackay had said.

It was in his subsequent interview with The Guardian that the 77 year-old multi millionaire – who made his money from the JJB Sports chain of shops – effectively justified Mackay’s language adding “the Jews don’t like losing money. Nobody likes losing money, I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I do not think that’s offensive at all.”



His comments caused an eruption of criticism, led initially by the ‘Kick it Out’ anti-racism organization, which questioned whether Whelan could continue in charge of Wigan.

Simon Johnson, now CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, but until last year the Football Association and Football League’s top executive, called on Whelan to withdraw and apologize “for his use of disgraceful anti-Semitic language,” views echoed by a spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews who said the comments were “outrageous.”

Whelan rapidly issued a form of apology, claiming he had thousands of Jewish friends, before adding, “If there are Jewish people offended by what I have said then I would apologize immediately and say I am sorry and did not mean offence to them. All my Jewish friends realize that I would never insult a Jewish person, I have no reason to – they are a great race of people. I do a lot of business with them, they are very honest people, hard-working people and I would never insult a Jewish person.”

But this hardly satisfied the Board of Deputies who said his apology was “half-hearted” while the Community Security Trust pointed out that Whelan’s comments reflected the “persistence of dinosaur attitudes in football on issues of racism and sexism.” The CST added Dave Whelan’s comments “invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money and his apology suggests that he still doesn’t understand why his comments were offensive.”

Widespread condemnation of Mackay’s appointment led to one of Wigan’s sponsors, the energy drinks company iPro Sport terminating their support for the club, while the club’s jersey sponsor, kitchen manufacturers Premier Range, too ended their association with Wigan stating that their position was “untenable.”

Meanwhile, Tan weighed in, branding both Whelan and Mackay racists. “I think he insulted the dignity of all Jewish people. I think he insulted the dignity of the Chinese,” Tan said, adding “I’m so disappointed the chairman of Wigan, a big club, is also a racist. This is a racist chairman hiring a racist manager.”

The Football Association has started their investigation and while the circumstances are unprecedented, could decide to ban Whelan from his club for a number of matches.

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