(JTA) — The English Premier League club Arsenal has launched a new fan affiliate group called the “Jewish Gooners,” as part of its plan to address recent incidents of antisemitism.
The club also announced that it had banned 31 fans for three years each over “abusive and discriminatory behaviour since the start of the 2021/22 season.” Those 31 incidents include five acts of antisemitism, three of which occurred at the team’s Emirates Stadium in London, and two online.
In January, Arsenal launched an investigation into alleged antisemitic incidents that occurred at the stadium and at a local pub during the team’s match against Tottenham, a team known for its sizable Jewish fanbase.
The new affiliate group, the “Jewish Gooners,” which incoporates the nickname for Arsenal fans, will aim to both prevent future antisemitic incidents and to create a more “inclusive” environment for Jewish fans, according to the Jewish Chronicle of London. The Jewish security group Community Security Trust and Britain’s antisemitism czar Lord John Mann are both involved.
“We’re very pleased to welcome the Jewish Gooners supporters’ club to the Arsenal family,” said Arsenal spokesman Mark Brindle. “We’ve already worked together on a number of initiatives and we’re looking forward to building on this in the future.”
Jewish Arsenal fans had been in conversation with the club about creating such a group for more than two years. The group will also enable observant fans to give their tickets to friends when matches fall on Shabbat.
While Arsenal and other clubs have plenty of Jewish fans, Jewish players are rare in the Premier League, arguably the best soccer league in the world. One rising star, Israeli midfielder Manor Solomon, has turned heads with his performance for Fulham F.C., leading to reports that the 23-year-old could draw interest from top teams, including Arsenal.
Arsenal, a London-based team with over a dozen league titles in its 136 years of existence, is currently in the top spot of the Premier League this season.