Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks after he reportedly claimed Jewish people “chase money more than everybody else”.
The main representative body of British Jews has called the comments “outrageous” and labelled his apology as “half-hearted”.
Whelan is set to face a Football Association charge after he responded to the controversy over Wigan’s appointment of Malky Mackay as manager by telling the Guardian: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else.”
The Wigan owner has since apologised for any offence caused but is facing a critical situation at the club. One of the Latics’ shirt sponsors, kitchen firm Premier Range, announced it was breaking ties with the club due to Whelan’s appointment of Mackay, who is himself the subject of an FA investigation for sending allegedly racist text messages to Iain Moody, his former head of recruitment at Cardiff.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews vice-president Jonathan Arkush said in a statement: “Dave Whelan’s comments about Jews are outrageous and offensive, and bring the club and the game into disrepute.
“His half-hearted apology does not go far enough. You cannot insult a whole group of people, and then say, ‘I would never insult them’, and hope that’s OK.
“We need to see a proper apology and full recognition of the offence caused. Whelan, in his role as chair of a football club, has a responsibility to set the tone for both his players and supporters. Racism and anti-Semitism will prevail on and off the pitch if it’s acceptable and unchallenged in the boardroom.
“We will be taking up the matter with the Football Association and Kick It Out.”
The FA’s disciplinary department is understood to be studying the transcript of the interview and it is expected Whelan will face an aggravated misconduct charge - aggravated because he refereed to race.
Whelan claimed he saw little offence in one of the texts which, referring to the Jewish football agent Phil Smith, allegedly read: “Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers.”
Whelan told the Guardian: “The Jews don’t like losing money. Nobody likes losing money.”
Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson, a former FA and Premier League executive, called for the governing body to investigate.
Johnson told Press Association Sport: “I want the FA to look into this as a matter of urgency and to make sure it is not swept under the carpet to show that they are determined to kick racism out of football.
“Unfortunately these type of comments by Mr Whelan and Mr Mackay are using some of the worst old-fashioned, lazy and offensive racial stereotypes which have been used in the past as the basis for some quite vile anti-semitism.”
Whelan also told the Guardian he did not view the word “chink” as offensive. Mackay had allegedly referred to Cardiff owner Vincent Tan, who is from Malaysia, by that word.
Furthermore, Whelan also said that he had been told by senior figures that “nothing will come” of the FA’s investigation into Mackay.
That was met with a swift rebuttal from the governing body, while anti-discriminatory body Kick It Out, which had strongly condemned Mackay’s appointment by the Sky Bet Championship club, questioned Whelan’s position.
Whelan has now apologised for causing offence.
He told Sky Sports News: “I would never, ever insult a Jewish person. I have got hundreds and hundreds of Jewish friends. I would never upset a Jewish person I would never upset them because I hold them in the highest regard.
“If anyone takes offence to anything I have said, please accept my sincere apology. It’s either a misquote or on that day I must have done 50 interviews.”
He added: “The Chinese community - again, I’ve got loads of Chinese friends. I would never insult the Chinese. I know Malky Mackay insulted them and they take that name seriously. I understand their point of view completely. He apologised to them and I hope they accept that.
“I apologise on my behalf and on behalf of the club. We do not ever want to insult any nation or any person in the world.”
Whelan added to BBC Sport: “I did not say that Jewish people chase money more than anybody else. I said that Jewish people do chase money, just like we the English chase money, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in chasing money because we work for it.
“If those Jewish people are offended by what I said then I apologise immediately.”
When asked about use of the word “chink”, Whelan added: “There are all kinds of names given to people, given to the English, to the Scottish, to the Welsh, to the Irish, and the Chinese.
“People use these words a lot in common in various conversations - a lot of this talk goes on all around the world and people accept it and take because I don’t think that there is an insult meant.
“If somebody says to a Chinaman ‘you’re a chink’, would he be upset about it? I don’t know really. If he was, I would say ‘I’m very sorry, I won’t call you that again’.”
The FA issued a statement saying no decision had been taken about the outcome of its Mackay investigation.
It said: “We wish to make it clear the FA investigation into the conduct of Malky Mackay and Iain Moody remains ongoing and no assurances have been given by the FA as to the outcome of this case.”
Sports drink company iPro Sport confirmed it is severing its ties with Wigan as a result of the Mackay appointment.
A statement from iPro said: “The company has been a supporter of the team and fan base at Wigan FC and had looked forward to a long and fruitful relationship with the club as its hydration partner. However, the recent decision to appoint Malky Mackay as the club’s new manager, in the light of the Football Association’s investigation into inappropriate text messages that he apparently sent while manager at Cardiff City, is at odds with the company’s business ethics and commitment to best practice.
“iPro Sport actively encourages positive working relationships irrespective of colour, race, nationality, religious belief, sexual orientation or age and cannot condone racism, sexism or homophobia.
“As a result, it is with enormous regret that iPro Sport will be severing its relationship with Wigan Athletic Football Club.”