BRUSSELS—The Belgian Football Association’s appeals commission recently ruled to absolve supporters of Club Bruges KV following derogatory antisemitic comments made during a match versus rival club of RSC Anderlecht.
Brugge supporters had chanted “Whoever does not jump is gay” and “All Jews are gay,” during the match in Brussels earlier this year. While the office of the Federal Prosecutor had requested a heavy fine for the club, the appeals commission acquitted Bruges, saying that the chants were not discriminatory, nor were they aimed at offending Jews or homosexuals. Federal prosecutor Kris Wagner said at the time: ‘’We have to be careful not to damage our international image as a football nation, and what constitutes acceptable behavior is changing over time, and these songs are hurtful.’’
But the commission said in its ruing : ‘’The terms used simply indicate a sexual orientation or a population group. The word ‘Jewish’ has no derogatory or discriminatory connotation, nor does the word ‘homo’.’’
The umbrella representative group of Belgian Jewish organisations, CCOJB, condemned the ruling. ‘’It is no longer ‘zero tolerance’, but ‘100% laxity,” the group said.
CCOJB condemned “the double discourse of the authorities in the files of racism, homophobia and antisemitism: the words are never enough, but even less when the acts contradict them”.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has called on the Royal Belgian Football Association to reconsider its decision.In a letter to the Belgian ssociation’s president, Gerard Linard, WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer underscored that the comments and chants heard during this incident “are undoubtedly and objectively antisemitic and homophobic in their nature,” adding that, “there is simply no reason – other than one with ill-intentions – by which fans of one club should refer to their opponents as ‘Jews” or “homosexuals’. These actions have the potential to have serious detrimental effects to both communities.”
“As we have regrettably have seen time and again in recent years, acts of hatred towards various minority groups can have devastating results. Unacceptable language has become the norm in today’s world, and sporting clubs and athletes possess a unique platform to combat this phenomenon,” Singer wrote.
In a separate incident in August of last year, Brugges fans were caught on tape shouting chants including, “Mijn vader zat bij de commando’s, Mijn moeder bij de SS, En samen verbanden ze Joden, want joden die branden de best”. When translated into English the phrase means, “My father was part of a commando (unit), my mother was SS, and together they burned Jews, because the Jews burn the best.”