Police step in to quell Wembley unrest: More officers are sent to England’s match tonight to help confiscate Israel and Palestine flags at turnstiles – and will arrest anyone supporting Hamas
- Pro-Palestine rallies have been held across London since Israel violence erupted
- Police and stewards will confiscate non-England and Australia flags and shirts
- Rabbi who runs FA’s Faith in Football group resigns after refusal to light up Arch
The Met Police have increased the number of officers on duty at Wembley this evening amidst fears of unrest triggered by the horrific events in Israel and Gaza.
Mail Sport has been told that officers will arrest anyone expressing support for Hamas, Hezbollah or other terrorist organisations, and will work with stewards to confiscate any flags, shirts and scarves representing countries other than England and Australia.
Pro-Palestine rallies have taken place across London over the past week leading to concerns that tonight’s game could be targeted.
An expression of support for Palestine and flying the flag is not a criminal offence, though, so arrests will only be made if individuals are perceived as endorsing terrorism.
The FA have moved to ban all flags, shirts and scarves for both the Australia game and Tuesday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy however, although questions have been raised over how strictly this will be enforced.
The Met Police will deploy additional officers to Wembley for Friday night’s England vs Australia friendly amid fears the event could be targeted by Pro-Palestine protestors
Police and stewards will confiscate any flags, shirts and scarves representing countries other than England and Australia
Pro-Palestine protests have been held across London, including outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, since violence erupted in the Middle-East last weekend
A protestor with a red smoke flare during the demonstration outside the Israeli embassy
Almost 3,000 people have already died in the Israel-Hamas war in both Israel and Gaza
Smoke billows following Israeli air strikes on Gaza City as the conflict continues
With the FA’s announcement only being made on Thursday there has been no time to recruit additional stewards so enforcement will require the support of the police.
A minute’s silence will be held before kick-off with players from both side’s wearing black armbands to pay tribute to the victims of the conflict.
‘On Friday evening, we will remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine,’ the FA said in a statement released on Thursday.
‘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.’
It comes as the Rabbi who is chair of the Football Association’s Faith in Football group resigned from his post over the governing body’s refusal to light up the Wembley Arch in Israel’s colours.
The decision was made despite the more than 1,200 death in Israel since Palestinian militant group Hamas launched attacks last weekend.
Instead, the FA called for fans to hold a minute’s silence to ‘remember the innocent victims’ on both sides of the conflict. Players will also wear black armbands.
Rabbi Alex Goldberg said the planned measures are not enough, especially given the arch was lit up to mark the invasion of Ukraine, terror attacks in France, Pele’s death and various causes célèbres.
Rabbi Alex Goldberg told the FA that he was ‘profoundly disappointed’ with their decision
Goldberg strongly condemned the FA and urged them to reassess their stance on the matter
In a letter to the FA’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham, Goldberg said: ‘(I am) profoundly disappointed in the FA’s decision not to have a specific tribute during the upcoming matches against Australia and Italy at Wembley Stadium, to the victims of the worst single atrocity committed against Jewish targets since the Shoah.’
Goldberg – who has worked with the FA for 16 years – also told them that their Faith in Football group will no longer continue to work with the governing body.
When has the FA lit up Wembley’s arch?
October 1, 2014 – Lit up in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
November 15, 2015 – Lit up in the blue, white and red of the French flag for the Paris terror attacks
June 29, 2016 – Lit up in red in support of Istanbul Atatürk Airport attack
March 19, 2020 – Lit up in blue in support of the NHS
December 3, 2020 – Lit up in purple for International Day of Persons with Disabilities
March 8, 2022 – Lit up in purple for International Women’s Day
February 25, 2022 – Lit up in colours of the Ukrainian flag
November 25, 2022 – Lit up in the colours of the LGBT pride flag
December 29, 2022 – Lit up in the yellow and green of the Brazil flag in tribute to Pele
He added: ‘It’s imperative that our responses and actions, especially in international platforms like those at Wembley Stadium, are unequivocal in their support for the victims of such atrocities.
‘Your formula looks like a form of moral equivalence, which is just not appropriate this week. The decision not to light up the (Wembley) arch has been received badly tonight within the community, where attacks on Jews in England have already gone up three-fold.
‘Many see the statement —only to permit flags and representations of the competing nations — as eradicating Jewish symbols and it has compounded grievances with the gravity of the recent events — but also inadvertently neglects the security and emotional well-being of Jewish fans who may be in attendance.
‘Planned gestures of wearing black armbands and observing a moment of silence are respectful; however, they may not fully convey the depth of solidarity and support necessary for the communities affected, both directly and indirectly, by these atrocious acts of violence, nor help give reassurance to Jews being attacked in this country now.’
The rabbi went onto say how he was writing ‘as a rabbi, as a father of children living in Israel’ and said he ‘strongly urged a reassessment of the FA’s stance on this matter.’
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer joined Goldberg in condemning the FA as she 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 added: ‘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,’ while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Wembley to display the flag of Israel, saying that ‘the message has to go out that we stand with Israel’.
Wembley’s arch lit in yellow and blue in an expression of solidarity with Ukraine following Russia’s invasion last year, and it has also been lit up on several other occasions in recent times
The Chelsea Jewish Supporters Group also said: ‘This spineless response is why we need people to speak out against terrorism.’
In response to the attacks by Hamas, Israel launched air strikes on Gaza and has restricted access to water, fuel, medicine and food. More than 1,300 people have died in the region, while 338,000 have been displaced.
It is understood senior FA officials were wary of a perception that they might be taking sides in the Middle East conflict.
The move stands in stark contrast with the Royal Family – the King and the Prince and Princess of Wales unequivocally condemned the terrorist atrocity on Thursday.
In a statement, the FA said: ‘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 and with all the communities who are affected by this ongoing conflict.
It was also illuminated in support of the LGBTQ + community amid the ‘OneLove’ armband row
‘England and Australia players will wear black armbands … and there will also be a period of silence held before kick-off.’
England boss Gareth Southgate said the FA ‘tried to make the best decision with good intentions’ when discussing the issue in the build-up to the game.
Meanwhile, players, managers and match officials will wear black armbands during EFL fixtures this weekend, while the same stance will be taken when the Premier League returns after the international break, and a period of silence will also be held.
Both the Premier League and the EFL are set to make a donation to the British Red Cross to help those in urgent need.
Elsewhere, the WSL requested that clubs wear black armbands and hold a period of silence at games and said it will ‘remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine’.
Wembley’s arch has long been used to mark tragedies, causes and institutions. It was lit up when Putin‘s Russia invaded Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in 2015 it wore the familiar colours of the French Tricolore as a sign of solidarity with all the victims of the Bataclan attack in Paris where extremists killed 130 people.
After the Bataclan massacre in 2015, Wembley remembered those who had lost their lives
A year after Bataclan, it was turned red as a mark of respect and sympathy following attacks in Turkey.
And at the end of 2022, when the pioneer of modern football Pele died, the arch was lit up in the colours of Brazil with Pele’s name in bright lights.
Weeks earlier rainbow colours in support of the LGBTQ + community shone out amid the ‘OneLove’ armband saga at the Qatar World Cup.
Support for the Alzheimer’s Society also led to the arch changing colour. There has also been support on International Women’s Day last year, for the NHS in 2021 and International Day of Persons with Disability in 2020.
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