(JTA) — Chelsea, the British soccer club, is planning to send fans who are caught chanting anti-Semitic songs on a tour of the former death camp of Auschwitz instead of punishing them.
The team’s owner, Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, has spearheaded a new initiative to combat anti-Semitism, according to the report about he plan in The Sun Thursday.
The tours will replace the team’s current policy of issuing stadium bans to offenders, according to the report, which said the Auschwitz trips would be “educational.” Fans who do not wish to go to Auschwitz will face season bans or longer penalties, according to the plan.
The new initiative is designed to combat the prevalent phenomenon of anti-Semitism in soccer chants, especially when Chelsea faces off with Tottenham Hotspur, a north London group widely associated with the Jewish People.
Many Hot Spurs fans refer to themselves proudly as “yids.” Supporters of rival teams taunt them with anti-Semitic chants, including about the Holocaust in what experts of anti-Semitism 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 take to flying Israeli flags at matches. Rival team supporters 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.”
Chelsea is so committed to the project they will cover all costs.
The idea has been backed by the World Jewish Congress, the Holocaust Education Trust and leading Jewish scholar Rabbi Barry Marcus, who said: “Banning doesn’t work.”