Forest Green Rovers Football Club (FGRFC) has breached the rules of football by its anti-Israel displays during matches, and by the tweets of its chairman, according to UKLFI.
UKLFI director Sam Green has now written to the Football Association to complain about the two incidents at FGRFC that occurred in April this year which breached both national and international footballing rules.
UKLFI previously wrote to Mr Dale Vince, chairman of FGRFC on 25 May 2022, detailing the issues, but received no response. UKLFI pointed out the many rules his club has apparently breached by these actions, including rules of its own Charter, the English Football League (EFL), the Football Association (FA), UEFA and FIFA.
UKLFI was concerned about an incident at FGRFC’s match against Harrogate on 30 April 2022, which was attended by Dr Husam Zomlot, Head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK. The advertising boards by the pitch displayed the slogan “End the Invasion and Occupation of Palestine”. Mr Vince spoke to Dr Zomlot on the pitch and both Mr Vince and Dr Zomlot publicised the event on social media.
In another incident, the Palestine flag was also hoisted over the ground on 18 April, 2022. In reference to that display Mr Vince posted the following on Twitter:
“We flew this flag at FGR’s game today. In solidarity with Palestine. The conflict there has all the same ingredients as the one in Ukraine – invasion, occupation, murder of civilians, destruction of homes and hospitals – and sieges.
Palestine has been under siege by Israel – by air, land and sea, for decades. The US allows this, pumps billions into Israel to support it’s economy and military and uses its veto to block any meaningful action by the UN.
What’s happening there is a disgrace to nations that collectively self identify as the ‘West’. It stands in stark contradiction to ‘our’ claims to moral superiority, civilisation and democratic values. Has to be said.”
The FGRFC Club Charter commits the club to equal treatment regardless of gender, race or ethnic origin, age, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability or any other unjustiﬁable reason and states the club will not tolerate “…any such form of discriminatory behaviour (physical or verbal)” and breaches will be sanctioned.
However, Sam Green commented: “Mr Vince portrayed the complex issues of the Middle East in caricature and vilified Israel. Any Jewish supporter who feels affinity with the State of Israel will have been discriminated against, and will feel belittled, alienated by the club’s actions.”
As a member of the EFL, FGRFC must also comply with its rules, including “a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and prejudiced behaviour in all forms”.
FGRFC’s actions were clearly discriminatory and prejudiced when they described Israel as engaging in “invasion, occupation, murder of civilians, destruction of homes and hospitals – and sieges”.
According to the FA rules, participants (which include directors of football clubs) must act in the best interests of the game, not bring the game into disrepute and not use “threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.” A breach of this provision is considered an “aggravated breach” when it includes references, express or implied, to, “ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, religion or belief …”
UKLFI pointed out that the antipathy demonstrated by Mr Vince and FGRFC at the match and on social media towards Israel and by extension its citizens, and any who feel affinity with or support the State of Israel, is an aggravated breach of FA rules.
One of UEFA’s objectives is to promote football in Europe in a spirit of peace, understanding and fair play, without any discrimination on account of politics, gender, religion, race or any other reason. UKLFI observed that Mr Vince’s action and statements promoted not peace and understanding but hostility and division.
UKLFI’s letter to Mr Vince also emphasised that he was in breach of the fundamental principles and regulations of FIFA, in particular rules against discrimination of any kind including against a country, or group of people on account of race … ethnic, national or social origin …, religion, political opinion or any other opinion . Breaches are strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.
UKLFI added that Mr Vince and FGRFC are also in breach of FIFA’s rules against
a) violating the basic rules of decent conduct;
b) insulting a natural or legal person in any way, especially by using
offensive gestures, signs or language;
c) using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature;
d) behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into