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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

'Disappointed in a broader sense' - How Chelsea owner Abramovich reacted to being targeted with anti-semitic attacks

For the first time during his ownership, the Blues owner has found himself coming under attack for more than just being wealthy Chelsea chai...

For the first time during his ownership, the Blues owner has found himself coming under attack for more than just being wealthy

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has spoken of his concern over seeing the club's owner Roman Abramovich face anti-semitic attacks for the first time on social media.

The Blues owner has often been described as a Russian billionaire after his takeover of the club in 2003 but, in recent years, his ethnicity has come into focus.

Shortly after conducting a rare public interview and expressing concern about the racism faced by his club's players, he became the victim of abuse himself. It came after he launched the Say No to Antisemitism campaign through Chelsea and became a citizen of Israel.

What has Buck said?

"He was certainly disappointed in a broader sense, not just because things were directed at him, but because of generally what was going on," Buck said as attacks rolled in during rising tensions in the Middle East in May. 

"I think that's the way everyone at the club felt. The interesting thing about today's event (a breakfast with people from across football and politics involved in fighting anti-semitism), in a certain sense it was depressing but in a certain sense, it was very hopeful. It has not been an easy time for those who fight discrimination in the last year and a half.

"It's important also to remember that when we do stand up for what we believe in and, causes like this, it leads to good things."

Buck's thoughts on football's response to the situation

As with the England national teams, football clubs have almost entirely found themselves on the right side of the debate against racism.

Typically, it has focused on the discrimination of other groups but Chelsea hope that, after a recent four-fold rise in anti-semitic hate crimes in the UK, it can become part of the agenda across the Premier League and beyond.

"We honestly aren't interested in taking all sorts of credit for this, we'd love to share all our resources, all our thoughts, even some of our people to other clubs, to engage in similar, or in dissimilar activities related to fighting discrimination," added Buck.

"The only way this is really going to work is if there's a geometric multiplier in there. We'll be happy if we can move the needle a little bit, this is a very big issue and Chelsea will not solve this by itself."It needs lots of people participating in it and that's what we'd really like to see."

Will Chelsea keep up the fight?

Yes, they have launched an exhibition at the Royal Air Force Museum in London which celebrates the contribution of Jewish people during World War II. They will also fund a campaign in Israel that sees Jewish and Arab children playing football together to improve integration.

There's hope that the ideas will spread beyond the club though and Chelsea hosted a breakfast event with leaders from the anti-semitism fight in the UK. It has led to antidiscrimination charity Kick It Out saying that it intends to increase its focus on anti-semitism.

"Historically, it's been alleged that Kick It Out was formed to fight racism against black players and coaches," Anthony Burnett, CEO of Kick It Out, said.

"But we're very much of the belief that you can't just fight one form of discrimination, because discrimination is wrong in all its forms.

"We looked at our strategy and realised we weren't doing enough on anti-semitism. Chelsea have been a shining light, and it gives us the opportunity to follow in the slipstream.

"We're going to do more on anti-semitism because not enough has been done in football. We've got a model to follow now, and we can hopefully add to that as well."

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