One soccer club has come up with an unusual way to deal with racist fans. Instead of banning people, the English Premier League club Chelsea is sending fans on a trip to Auschwitz, according to the Guardian.
Soccer can bring out intense emotions in its fans. Clubs across the European leagues have dealt with discrimination and assaults by banning offenders. But Roman Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea club, is looking for new ways to change the way fans behave. That includes sending them to the Nazi concentration camp on an educational trip.
“In the past we would take them from the crowd and ban them, for up to three years. Now we say: ‘You did something wrong. You have the option. We can ban you or you can spend some time with our diversity officers, understanding what you did wrong.,'” Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck told the Sun.
Instead of pushing people out, the club wants to help them change.
“If you just ban people, you will never change their behavior. This policy gives them the chance to realize what they have done, to make them want to behave better,” Buck added.
Chelsea has been publicly fighting against discrimination and racism among its fans for over a year. In September 2017, the club started calling out fans who were yelling antisemitic chants at a rival team.
“It is hard to act when a group of 50 or 100 people are chanting. That’s virtually impossible to deal with or try to drag them out of the stadium. But if we have individuals that we can identify, we can act,” Buck said.
The club also started a video campaign in January this year to educate fans about antisemitism in soccer.
A reminder that tonight’s match with Bournemouth marks the start of our campaign to tackle antisemitism in football.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 31, 2018
In April, Chelsea sent a group of people Auschwitz for the March of the Living. In June, it followed up by sending 150 staff and supporters on a day trip to the site. Backers and the Football Supporters Federation like the idea of sending fans to the camp. The FSF made a public statement saying that they agreed with Buck’s opinion that banning people doesn’t change an individual’s beliefs or behavior.
In addition, the club is holding workshops and screening movies for fans and at local schools to help raise awareness. Chelsea has also set up a hotline where people can report racist behavior.
Buck said that he hopes the programs will help change a few minds and maybe even spread among other institutions.