This week, Chelsea Football Club and the Chelsea Foundation presented on the power of football to have a positive impact on global society, on and off the pitch, at the Ideas Festival 2020.
In a panel discussion between Chelsea FC Chairman Bruce Buck, Head of the Chelsea Foundation Simon Taylor, and the Right Honourable Lord Mann, Advisor to the UK Government on Antisemitism, an audience of senior political and business leaders heard about the Club’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Say No to Antisemitism Campaign and the Foundation’s wider work to support society and communities around the world.
Speaking about the Covid-19 crisis, the panel detailed the Club’s decision to maintain all staff salaries, issue credit to season ticket holders, support vulnerable fans with calls from players and staff, and offer meals and hotel rooms to NHS staff.
The Club also partnered with domestic abuse charity Refuge to raise over £500,000 pounds for at risk women and children.
Chairman Bruce Buck said: ‘We recognised our obligation to the community, and once Covid-19 hit and there was a lockdown, we had to figure out what kinds of programmes we could do that would make an impact on the terrible situation that was facing this country.’
Lord Mann added that, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, ‘Chelsea has played a role, and Chelsea supporters in Europe and across the world must be very proud of their club for taking such a real and pragmatic lead. It’s a badge of honour that they will be wearing in supporting their club.’
The panel discussed Chelsea’s Say No to Antisemitism campaign, describing Roman Abramovich’s suggestion to the Chelsea Board that the Club should consider the project in light of a number of antisemitic incidents globally in late 2016 and early 2017. ‘The idea was to do something very specific about antisemitism’ said Bruce Buck.
Simon Taylor, Head of the Chelsea Foundation detailed an initial consultation with Jewish organisations to understand the issues and how Chelsea could positively affect them, before focusing on the education aspect with talks by Holocaust survivors for players from the men’s, women’s and Academy teams, as well as fan groups.
‘We have developed educational workshops around antisemitism issues and where hatred can lead. One of the things that had the biggest effect around the club was taking 150 staff and fans to Auschwitz. It really helped focus the mind and put things in perspective about where hatred can lead and the horrors of the Holocaust.’
Lord Mann added: ‘The reach of football is so huge, the badge of Chelsea is so famous, therefore if Chelsea does something, it represents the values of the club and you cannot underestimate the positive impact it has on the Jewish community, especially on young Jewish people in this country.’
On Chelsea being the first sports team globally to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, Lord Mann added:
‘You can’t deal with a problem, and antisemitism is a problem, if you don’t define it. Having a clear definition has lots of practical implications [and] other clubs are emulating what Chelsea are doing.’
Chairman Bruce Buck closed the panel by looking to the future as Chelsea seek to address societal challenges such as antisemitism:
‘We are particularly grateful for the support we have gotten from Lord Mann who keeps encouraging us to do more. And we will.’