George Galloway has spilled a nasty can of worms over football regulations

“Yid Army”: Jewish Spurs fans wave a modified flag of Israel at a match – but isn’t this against the rules?

The controversy over whether George Galloway was anti-Semitic for claiming Israeli flag-waving Spurs supporters are backing a “racist state” may rumble on for some time – but why were these fans even allowed to bring such flags to matches when it is against FA rules?

These rules ban political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative slogans or messages at matches. Originally applied to players and team officials, they have been widened in practice to include supporters.

The most notorious example of this appears to be UEFA’s decision to fine Celtic £8,615 for waving the flag of Palestine at a 2016 match against Israeli team Hapoel Be’er Sheva in 2016:

UEFA had said its rules forbid the use of “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature”. It was said to have described the Palestinian flag as an “illicit banner”. Is it?

It’s a reference to Law 4 of the game. The UK’s Football Association has the same rule, referring to players and team officials. But UEFA’s widening of its application creates a tension that needs to be addressed.

In 2018, FA chief Martin Glenn was rebuked for saying the Star of David was among the symbols he believes breach the soccer laws banning religious and political imagery. The Jewish Leadership Council said his words were “offensive and inappropriate”, as the symbol is on the Israeli flag which appears on national team kits and is displayed in stadiums.

Such symbols are allowed on national kits, though.

The issue is one of hypocrisy, as “Han Dodges” pointed out in the tweet above.

Why should Israeli flags be permitted in football stadiums but not those of Palestine? That seems to show very clear political bias by national and international football associations.

It seems if the rules had been correctly and impartially applied, Mr Galloway would not have fallen foul of his now-former employers at TalkRadio, because there would have been no Israeli flags at Spurs matches.

It seems the FA has a serious question to answer.

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  1. trev June 4, 2019 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I know absolutely zilch about football but judging by what you say it does seem like the FA are at fault in allowing those pro-Israel banners to be displayed at a match.

  2. Neilth June 4, 2019 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    It seems impossible to ban the flying of flags at sporting events. Should the Union Flag be flown at England’s matches? Should only the Cross of St George be allowed? But then that flag has been hi jacked by the far right and represents something else entirely.
    The Welsh Dragon is flown by my compatriots at every possible opportunity.
    National flags flown by supporters of teams other than their own national flags can demonstrate the international appeal of teams.
    Cardiff City for example regularly see Malayan flags flown.
    I’m watching the poor BBC coverage of the anti trump demonstrations in London as I type but notice many flags of different origin being flown to show the diversity of opposition to the so called president.
    I would recommend a study of Sheldon Coopers Fun with Flags to provide an understanding of the relevance of flags in today’s world.

    • Mike Sivier June 4, 2019 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      You see? It’s a huge can of worms!

    • Zippi June 4, 2019 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Tottenham Hotspur is a British team, though, not an Israeli one. In that context, how was the flag appropriate?

  3. Simon Cohen June 4, 2019 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    I suppose you could argue it is not a full Israeli flag .

    My memory of the Hebrew I learnt is not very good but I think the Hebrew at the top of the banner means ‘Fans of Toteneham in Israel’ using the symbols of the George Cross and the Star of David-so it’s moot point whether it is a National flag in any way but just a banner representing Israeli Fans who support Totenham.

    If this is the ‘flag’ George Galloway referred to then it is clearly not the flag of Israel.

    The whole thing seems riven with ambiguity where intent is difficult to define.

    • Mike Sivier June 4, 2019 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      I agree with your last paragraph. I think this is a very specific flag, specially-made, but other fans use the ordinary flag of Israel.

  4. kipperwacker June 4, 2019 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    It really*isn’t* a huge can of worms. The instance of the Palestinian flag being waved was clearly politically motivated. If fans bring Israeli flags to *all* Spurs matches you’d have to prove they were doing it for political reasons. Spoiler: you can’t.
    Galloway’s comment was disgusting – and also massively insulting to both teams and their supporters. Not sporting!

    • Mike Sivier June 4, 2019 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      Well, yes, you can say that the Israeli flag is being brought to matches for political reasons, in exactly the same way the Palestinian flag was brought to that Celtic match. And political/religious symbols are supposed to be banned in any case. So it’s not as clear-cut as you seem to think.

    • Gary June 4, 2019 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      If it’s banned (which it IS) then why do Spurs fans get a free pass?

      There is no requirement to prove ‘intent’ only that you ‘have a flag’ They clearly have flags, they are clearly banned. They should have been removed and were not.

      You have no idea of the trouble flags have caused at Old Firm games in Scotland and, in fact, these matches may be the reason for the ban. NB the Israel and Palestine flags are a new phenomena, prior to that it was the Irish Flag and the Northern Irish ‘Red Hand’ that caused problems.

      If Spurs fans get a free pass, then others will ask why. So, why DO they get a free pass? A ban is a ban…

    • Zippi June 4, 2019 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      Was it disgusting, really? My best friend is Jewish but, as he says, not Israeli. It was the presence of the Israeli flag that Mr. Galloway claims he was responding to. In fact, it was, as I recall, merely the flag that he mentioned; do correct me, if I am wrong.
      Banter and jeering and all kinds of remarks, that, in general discourse, would be unacceptable, occur regularly in football; it’s part of the culture. My brother and I are fans of both teams and we will rib each other, when the other’s team loses, even if we were not playing each other. Although my brother is not Jewish, he claims to be a member of the Yid Army (a term that I thought has fallen foul of political correctness).
      I think that Mr. Galloway’s tweet was inappropriate and unnecessary but in context, I don’t see reason for people to get SO get up about it.

      • Mike Sivier June 5, 2019 at 12:23 pm - Reply

        Mr Galloway went on, in interview, to condemn Jewish Spurs fans’ support for a “racist state”.

        As I stated in the original article, Jewish Spurs fans adopted the word “Yid” in response to anti-Semitism.

      • Zippi June 5, 2019 at 5:12 pm - Reply

        I had forgotten that but how many people know that about “Yid” in connection with Jewish Spurs fans?

  5. Terry Roll June 4, 2019 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Or was it just an excuse for Talk Radio to get rid of their only pro-Corbyn presenter?

  6. Gary June 4, 2019 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Unless it’s your team flag or national flag, ban it.

    Have you ever been to an Old Firm game? That’s Celtic Vs Rangers for the uninitiated. The team’s support is based on sectarian lines. Celtic fans wave Irish flags and Palestinian flags. Meanwhile the Rangers fans wave Red Hand of Ulster and Israel flags. This is ENTIRELY about religious hatred (in this case Catholic [Celtic] and Protestant [Rangers]) There is violence both at, and away, from the ganes on ‘Old Firm’ days. Certain pubs close and there are guaranteed to be violent attacks and the occasional murder over the weekend.

    People think it’s a myth, but a relative of mine is a Social Worker and they have extra staff on duty over the weekend of an Old Firm game. The ‘fans’ come home and beat their wives and children after the game. Lots of kids miss school and wives miss work on Mondays after due to ‘bruising’ they dare not show.

    The flags (innocent themselves) fuel this hatred. Aside from that their are sectarian songs and taunts. We had a law preventing the singing of sectarian chants and songs but, strangely, the Scottish Labour Party joined up with the Scottish Tories to get this law overturned and allow this shame to be restarted. Why Labour backed this behaviour I’ll never know.

    So, NO, flags should DEFINTELY be banned from football grounds. It’s not about causing offence, it’s about the danger of actual physical violence among those who wave them and the innocents who are also caught up in it.

    Football can bring out the worst in some, and for a few it’s just an excuse to behave like this.

    In the case of the Spurs fans you can draw your own conclusions as to why it has been overlooked. Genuinely they aren’t waving it in the way Rangers fans are but all the same, if it’s banned – it’s banned. In THAT sense Galloway is correct, the flag should not be anywhere near the cup, never mind draped over it…

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