LONDON - English Premier League giants Chelsea are sending fans banned for anti-Semitism on diversity training courses that could include visits to former Nazi concentration camps, the club has said.
The initiative, aimed at fans guilty of non-criminal racist acts, is part of owner Roman Abramovich’s ongoing drive to stamp out anti-Semitism, according to Chairman Bruce Buck.
The club has already organized two visits to concentration camps as part of its efforts to raise awareness of the issue, and fans on the voluntary diversity course could be invited on future trips.
“If you just ban the people, you will never change their behavior,” Buck said in comments reported by The Sun daily.
“This policy gives them the chance to realize what they have done, to make them want to behave better.”
The club has previously criticized pockets of its own fans over anti-Semitic chants directed at bitter London rivals Tottenham, a club with a large Jewish fan base.
Abramovich, who is himself Jewish, sought a plan to deal with the issue, resulting in club delegations twice visiting the Auschwitz camp.
“Following a proposal raised at our Fans’ Forum, the club is launching an education program for supporters banned for anti-Semitic behavior, as well as helping them to understand the impact of their actions, with participation in the course potentially leading to a reduction in the length of their ban,” the club said in a statement.
Holocaust survivors Harry Spiro and Mala Tribich have both shared their stories at events hosted by the club as part of the initiative, which is backed by Jewish leaders.
“Hearing from a survivor, learning about the Holocaust, and understanding what language constitutes hate speech, all contribute to a better understanding and greater awareness of what anti-Semitism is and how to combat it,” said Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
“Through this initiative Chelsea are making a real commitment in fighting this issue within the game and the wider community,” she added.