Gareth Southgate defends FA’s ‘good intentions’ following Wembley row as the group is accused of ‘sending message that Jews don’t count’ by refusing to light up stadium’s arch in Star of David colours

Gareth Southgate has defended the FA amid accusations it was ‘sending a message that Jews don’t count’ after refusing to light up the Wembley arch with the colours of the Star of David before England vs Australia tomorrow.

England fans have also been warned that Israeli flags will be ripped off them at the turnstiles as the FA – which has been branded as ‘spineless’ by Jewish supporter groups – faces questions over its slow response to the terror attacks by Hamas.

The Three Lions boss said that he recognised how ‘difficult’ the FA’s decision was, and that while he was not involved in the discussions, he and his squad will get behind the stance which comes with ‘good intentions’. 

His comments came after Lord John Mann, the adviser to the Government on anti-Semitism who has been holding talks with the FA this week, said the sport body’s response to the attacks by Hamas terrorists represents ‘a failure of leadership’.

Speaking to Telegraph Sport, Lord Mann – who had called on the FA to light up the arch with the blue and white colours of the Jewish prayer shawl rather than the Israeli flag – said: ‘I don’t speak for the Jewish community, but I already know what they think about this. 

‘People have rung me and messaged me repeatedly from across the Jewish community and the message is that, in terms of football, ”Jews don’t count”. 

England manager Gareth Southgate (pictured) said that he recognised how ‘difficult’ the FA’s decision was, adding that he was not involved in the discussions but said his squad would get behind the stance taken

Lord John Mann (pictured) has accused the FA of 'sending a message that Jews don't count' after refusing to light up the Wembley arch following the Hamas attacks

Lord John Mann (pictured) has accused the FA of ‘sending a message that Jews don’t count’ after refusing to light up the Wembley arch following the Hamas attacks

England fans have also been warned that Israeli flags will be ripped off them at the turnstiles. Only England flags and Australia flags will be allowed at tomorrow's game

England fans have also been warned that Israeli flags will be ripped off them at the turnstiles. Only England flags and Australia flags will be allowed at tomorrow’s game

The Wembley Arch was lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag just a day after Russia invaded the country in February 2022

The Wembley Arch was lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag just a day after Russia invaded the country in February 2022

Lord Mann said that the ‘FA have let down the Jewish community’, adding: ‘It’s a failure of leadership at the top of football and their arguments to Parliament about a football regulator and not needing one or that the FA should be the regulator are dramatically weakened by it.’

Last year, the arch turned blue and yellow in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was also illuminated in rainbow colours in support of LGBT people amid the ‘OneLove’ armband row at the Qatar World Cup.

But rather than perform a similar tribute for Israel, the FA said it would hold a minute’s silence and ask players to wear black armbands. Lord Mann suggested a holding a minute’s silence during the Jewish Sabbath was ‘useless because there won’t be any Jewish people there’.

He also said that he made the ‘trauma’ that Jewish communities were facing in the UK at the moment clear to the FA and explained why he thought it was critical that football showed their support.

He has asked the FA to name the Britons killed during the Hamas attacks on the Wembley screens. At this stage, 17 Brits – including children – are either dead or missing. 

The FA’s refusal to light up the arch – a landmark which is seen across the capital – comes after the Government wrote a letter to sports bodies encouraging them to pay tribute to the victims of Hamas terror attacks at upcoming events.

The letter read: ‘In the light of the attacks in Israel on behalf of the secretary of state we would encourage you to mark the events in line with previous events where sport has come together.’

Speaking on the eve of England’s clash with Australia, Southgate – who described the scenes in Israel and Gaza as ‘incredibly disturbing’ – said: ‘In my lifetime it’s one of the most complex situations in the world. And I think everybody is grappling with how best to deal with that.

It was also illuminated in rainbow colours in support of the LGBTQ + community amid the 'OneLove' armband row at the Qatar World Cup

It was also illuminated in rainbow colours in support of the LGBTQ + community amid the ‘OneLove’ armband row at the Qatar World Cup 

Chelsea Jewish Supporters' Group were among those to criticise the decision

Chelsea Jewish Supporters’ Group were among those to criticise the decision

 ‘I don’t know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of people on either sides of that conflict. What I do know is that I think people at the FA will have consulted with everybody they possibly can and they would have tried to make best decision with good intentions.

‘Clearly whatever decision they came to would have been criticised in one way or another so I also recognise how difficult it was for them. I wasn’t involved in those discussions they were long and went on for a long time, I know. But they’ve decided to take the stance they have, and we will get on with that.’

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: ‘I am extremely disappointed by the FA’s decision not to light up the Wembley Stadium arch following last weekend’s horrific terrorist attacks in Israel, and have made my views clear to the FA.

‘It is especially disappointing in light of the FA’s bold stance on other terrorist attacks in the recent past.

‘Words and actions matter. The Government is clear: We stand with Israel.’

Tory party chairman Lee Anderson said: ‘The cowards at the FA need to man up and light up Wembley in support of Israel. Failure to do so will leave a dark stain on our beautiful game.’

Joseph Cohen, executive director of the Israel Advocacy Movement, said: ‘That the FA is too cowardly to show solidarity for the dead leaves us angry, hurt and upset. 1,200 people were murdered in the biggest massacre of the Jews since the Holocaust and they cannot even flick a switch to show respect for the dead.’

Chelsea Jewish Supporters’ Group were among those to criticise the FA’s decision, tweeting: ‘This spineless response is why we need people to speak out against terrorism.’

Neil O’Brien MP described the decision as ‘just pathetic’ while Lord Ian Austin said it was a ‘complete disgrace’. 

Meanwhile, political commentator Toby Young tweeted: ‘Kick out racism, but turn a blind eye to the murder of 1,200 Jews by genocidal racists because it might upset some racists in our ”community”. Pathetic.’

The FA said in a statement this afternoon: ‘On Friday evening, we will remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine.

‘Our thoughts are with them, and their families and friends in England and Australia and with all the communities who are affected by this ongoing conflict. We stand for humanity and an end to the death, violence, fear and suffering. 

‘England and Australia players will wear black armbands during their match at Wembley Stadium and there will also be a period of silence held before kick off. 

‘Following discussions with partners and external stakeholders, we will only permit flags, replica kits and other representations of nationality for the competing nations inside Wembley Stadium for the upcoming matches against Australia [13 Oct] and Italy [17 Oct]. 

‘The British Red Cross have also launched an emergency appeal to support the people affected by the humanitarian crisis in the region, and we will promote this appeal within the stadium on Friday.’

The FA’s page on flags at Wembley says: ‘Should a guest arrives at Wembley Stadium connected by EE and their flag does not fall under the above guidelines, and they have not gained permission from Wembley Stadium, the flag will be confiscated at the turnstiles and not allowed into the Stadium.’

The Israeli flag was projected on 10 Downing Street on Sunday evening in London

The Israeli flag was projected on 10 Downing Street on Sunday evening in London

It was also projected on the House of Commons in Westminster and several other buildings

It was also projected on the House of Commons in Westminster and several other buildings

A meeting took place yesterday at FA headquarters to discuss how to mark the attacks, where some in attendance claimed lighting the arch could be divisive, according to the BBC.

Senior officials were said to be worried of creating a perception that they are taking sides in the conflict.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed the idea of lighting up the Wembley arch in the colours of Israel’s flag.

He told LBC radio: ‘I do think they should be on the arch because I think the message has to go out that we stand with Israel, the UK stands with Israel, and that is a manifestation of that support.’

Health Secretary Steve Barclay backed the calls today, telling Sky News: ‘I think we should make clear our strong support for Israel. We stand with Israel, and I think we’ve seen that with Parliament, we’ve seen it with Number 10. I think it would be fitting to show that with Wembley as well.’

Asked what sympathy he has with the people of Gaza this morning, he said: ‘The UK does have sympathy. That’s why we contribute about 10% of the aid that is distributed in the region through the United Nations.

‘It’s why the Foreign Secretary was in Israel yesterday talking to counterparts about the importance of minimising civilian casualties.’

He added: ‘Israel has a right to defend itself but also to deter future attacks from Gaza. So Hamas are responsible for what we’re seeing in Gaza, but of course everyone has a responsibility in terms of minimising civilian casualties.’

‘We agree that international law, international rules of war should be adhered to. And those are the sort of conversations I’m sure the Foreign Secretary was having in Israel in yesterday. 

Arsenal star Mohamed Elneny, who is Egyptian, changed his avatars to a Palestine flag

Arsenal star Mohamed Elneny, who is Egyptian, changed his avatars to a Palestine flag 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Oleksandr Zinchenko posted a message on Instagram that read 'I stand with Israel' before deleting it

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Oleksandr Zinchenko posted a message on Instagram that read ‘I stand with Israel’ before deleting it

‘But we should also be very clear it is Israel that has been attacked here.’

David Bernstein, the former chairman of the Football Association, said he was ‘hurt but not surprised’ by the FA’s slow response to the terror attacks in Israel.

‘I am shocked, hurt, but not totally surprised that the Football Association has not yet had time to consider its reaction to the murder of nearly 1,000 people,’ he told The Telegraph.

‘I note how speedily it has reacted to other situations and I would welcome an explanation as to why the tragedy in Israel should be perceived so differently by the FA.

‘I also note this is in stark contrast to our Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, who has found time to respond appropriately to this horrendous situation.’

The death toll in Israel from Hamas’ attacks now stands at 1,200, including 260 revellers who massacred at a music festival. More than 1,100 people have been killed by Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

Jewish football groups have also criticised the silence of the FA, Premier League and individual clubs on the slaughter of innocent Israelis over the weekend.

Arsenal group Jewish Gooners released a statement yesterday in which they questioned why the atrocity in Israel is being ignored by authorities who have been quick to ‘promote causes they care about’.

They said they felt abandoned by the game they love, adding the lack of action showed they ‘are not part of this so-called family’.

Two Arsenal players have used social media to back both Israel and Palestine, prompting bosses to warn their entire squad about the potential backlash they and the club could face.

While Egyptian footballer Mohamed Elneny changed his avatars to a Palestine flag, Oleksandr Zinchenko posted a message on Instagram that read ‘I stand with Israel’ before deleting it.

Slamming the football world’s silence in the Israel-Hamas conflict yesterday, Jewish Gooners said: ‘Five days after 1,200 Jews were killed in possibly the worst terrorist atrocity perpetrated in the West since the Holocaust, there has still not been a single word from the world of football. 

‘Not from the authorities, not from the clubs, not from the overwhelming majority of players, not from the broadcasts and not from the pundits.’

They continued: ‘It is not complicated. It is not complex. The murder, rape, abduction, decapitation of innocent men, women and children needs no context.

‘It is not necessary, at this moment, to find a balance or another side. 

‘By failing to even acknowledge what has occurred, the football world has demonstrated one thing loud and clear. That Jewish and Israeli lives and deaths are not equal to those of others. That Jewish fans and the people of Israel are not part of this so-called family.

‘In the grand scheme of things, a minute silence before a football match or a stadium washed in blue and white, is irrelevant. 

‘Whatever happens now and whatever politically sensitive solution is achieved in football’s corridors of power, Jewish and Israeli football fans know that when it really mattered, we were not supported.’

Celtic supporters held up banners that read 'Free Palestine' and 'Victory to the Resistance' after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Saturday

Celtic supporters held up banners that read ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Victory to the Resistance’ after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Saturday

A number of Palestinian flags were on display at Parkhead as Celtic played Kilmarnock

A number of Palestinian flags were on display at Parkhead as Celtic played Kilmarnock

Arsenal celebrated the official launch of Jewish Gooners with a special party at the Emirates in May as the group’s banner was added to the stadium’s surround. Yet they are among the Premier League clubs who have remained mute on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Watford Jewish Supporters Group said they ‘mourn the innocent victims in Israel and condemn the acts of terrorism’, adding: ‘We call on the football community to condemn Hamas, as well as the antisemitism we’ve seen unfold in the streets here in the UK.’

The Chelsea Jewish Supporters Group said: ‘We mourn the innocent victims and their families, and we wholeheartedly and strongly condemn both the terrorism from Hamas, and the unfortunate rise in antisemitism we’ve seen both in the UK and around the world. 

‘We are disappointed with the silence within the wider football community and urge football leaders to speak out against terrorism and hatred.’ 

It comes as a group of Celtic fans continues to row with the club’s board over plans to wave Palestinian flags during an upcoming Champions League game against Atletico Madrid.

Members of the ‘Green Brigade’ had previously held up a banner reading ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Victory to the Resistance’ during a game against Kilmarnock on Saturday – just hours after hundreds of Israeli civilians had been massacred by Hamas terrorists.

The display was condemned by Celtic FC, who said in a statement: ‘Celtic is a football club and not a political organisation. One of our core values from inception is to be open to all regardless of race, colour, politics or creed.

‘That is why the club has always made clear that political messages and banners are not welcome at Celtic Park, or any match involving Celtic. At a time of loss and suffering for many, it is entirely inappropriate for any group of individuals to use Celtic Park as a vehicle for such messages.’

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