FA branded 'spineless' after refusing to light up Wembley Stadium arch in Israel's colours

By John Mercury October 13, 2023

The FA has been branded “spineless” and condemned for its “weak response” to the Hamas attack in Israel after announcing the Wembley Stadium arch will not be illuminated in blue and white to represent the Israeli flag.

England and Australia players will wear black armbands during their friendly match at the northwest London stadium on Friday night, with a moment of silence also observed before kick-off.

In a statement, the FA said it 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.”

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But the decision has been questioned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the largest and second oldest Jewish communal organisation in the UK.

In a statement, the organisation, also known as the Board of Deputies, made reference to the Bataclan massacre, when 90 people were murdered at a nightclub during the Paris attacks in November 2015.

In response, the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was played at every Premier League stadium the following weekend.

The Jewish organisation said on Thursday: “When hundreds of innocent Israelis were murdered, raped and kidnapped in a coordinated terrorist campaign, unequalled since 9/11, the FA’s response is ‘to remember the victims of the conflicts in Israel and Palestine’ and the Wembley arches will not be illuminated in blue and white.

“This weak response brings no credit to the FA.”

The Chelsea Jewish Supporters’ Group described the response as “spineless” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said she was “extremely disappointed” by the decision and added she had “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,” she wrote on X.

“Words and actions matter. The government is clear: we stand with Israel.”

The FA said it will only allow flags and kits of competing nations inside Wembley during England’s game against Australia on Friday, and the Three Lions’ clash against Italy on 17 October.

It will also promote a Red Cross emergency appeal to support people affected by the humanitarian crisis in the region in the stadium.

The arch will not be lit up
Image:
The arch will not be lit up

Over the years, the Wembley arch has been illuminated in the colours of the flags of countries, including France, Turkey and Ukraine, within days of attacks.

There are clear sensitivities – with some wanting Palestinian deaths acknowledged.

The president of the FA – Prince William – has commented on the situation in a joint statement with his wife through a Kensington Palace spokesperson.

“As Israel exercises its right to self-defence, all Israelis and Palestinians will be continued to be stalked by grief, fear and anger in the time to come,” it said.

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Health Secretary Steve Barclay had earlier joined calls for the Wembley arch to be lit up in blue and white on Friday, telling Sky News “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,” he said. “I think it would be fitting to show that with Wembley as well.”

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Barclay: ‘Hamas are responsible’

Asked what sympathy he has with the people of Gaza, he said the UK “does have sympathy” and contributes “about 10%” of the aid 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.

Latest figures from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) show at least 1,300 Israelis have died and more than 2,700 injured since Hamas’s surprise attack on Saturday.

The Gaza Health Ministry, meanwhile, reports at least 1,354 Palestinians have died and 6,049 injured in Israeli strikes.

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