UK soccer fan organisation under investigation for antisemitism

A UK Arsenal soccer team fan group is under investigation for messages ranging in topics from the Holocaust, Israel-Palestine conspiracy theories and a number of comments relating to circumcision.

The Ashburton Army, a fan organisation for the Arsenal soccer team, is under investigation after a number of antisemitic messages exchanged on WhatsApp came to light, reports The Jerusalem Post.

The Ashburton Army fan group comprises approximately 200 members, and it is responsible for designing flags and banners, writing songs and participating in charity events in honour of Arsenal. Although the group is not officially affiliated with Arsenal, it was reported that tickets are regularly reserved for members of the group.

The antisemitic messages in question were allegedly exchanged in the organisation’s WhatsApp chat group. They included topics like the Holocaust and Israeli-Palestinian conspiracy theories, along with comments relating to circumcision and the Tottenham Hotspurs, an opposing club with a Jewish fanbase.

According to media sources, the antisemitic messages were sent in the form of songs, words, memes and cartoons. The group’s admins did not delete any offending material or take action against anyone that sent such material, which allegedly targeted a former group member.

The group said they „strongly condemn any form of racism and antisemitic talk as we are a group with many religions and races and have Jewish members. We will continue to educate members and work with the club throughout the investigation.” The police investigation is ongoing.

While Arsenal has allegedly been aware of the group’s antisemitic activities since 2019, it has only just decided to take action, issuing a warning to the group, insisting that they need to maintain better conduct to provide a safe environment in the stadium.

„We are aware of the historic messages on a private WhatsApp group, and we strongly condemn the abusive and discriminatory language being used,” they said in a statement, adding that their ongoing efforts and past bans prove that they are a soccer club that does not tolerate abusive and discriminatory behaviour.