By Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA) – The British soccer club Chelsea is planning to send fans who are caught chanting antisemitic songs on a tour of the former death camp Auschwitz rather than punishing them. The team’s owner, Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, has spearheaded the initiative to combat antisemitism, according to a report about the plan in The Sun on Thursday, Oct. 11. Chelsea would cover all the costs. The tours will replace the team’s current policy of banning offenders, according to the report, which said the Auschwitz trips would be “educational.” Fans who do not wish to go to Auschwitz would face season bans or longer penalties. The initiative is designed to combat the prevalent phenomenon of antisemitism in soccer chants, especially when Chelsea faces the Tottenham Hotspur, a north London group widely associated with the Jewish people.
Many Hotspur fans refer to themselves proudly as “yids.” Supporters of rival teams taunt them with anti-Semitic chants, including about the Holocaust in what anti-Semitism experts say is a major arena of banalization of the Holocaust and mainstreaming of anti-Semitic hate speech. Several other soccer teams throughout Europe are associated with Jews, none more than Amsterdam’s Ajax, whose fans fly Israeli flags at matches. Supporters of rival teams often chants about Hamas, the SS and gassing Jews.
“If you just ban people, you will never change their behavior,” The Sun quoted Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck as saying. “This policy gives them the chance to realize what they have done, to make them want to behave better.”
A Chelsea delegation attended the annual March of the Living at Auschwitz in April. Also in June, an official trip of 150 Chelsea supporters and club employees went on an official trip to the Nazi camp. Holocaust survivors have also given talks to Chelsea players.