A scandal is set to hit English soccer this morning with a report by the London-based tabloid the Daily Mirror saying that Chelsea Chairman Ken Bates recently made remarks that could be construed as anti-Semitic.
Bates was commenting on the fact that Hapoel Tel Aviv supporters were attempting to buy cheap tickets to tomorrow night's UEFA Cup game at Stamford Bridge - tickets that were allocated to the home team supporters.
"I know that Hapoel fans in London have been trying to purchase cheaper tickets that have been set aside for the Chelsea supporters. We know the Israelis - they will always look to get a discount," Bates was quoted as saying.
A leading spokesman for Jewish organizations in Britain, who asked not to be identified, told the Mirror reporter he felt "Bates is a dangerous man."
"It is very sad that somebody who holds such a high position in English sport should say such hurtful things, which show a prejudice against the Jews," the spokesman said.
"The stereotype of the miserly Jew is an ancient anti-Semitic notion, and [the comment] is particularly serious as Chelsea, like other major London clubs, has so many Jewish supporters," he continued.
"The Chelsea chairman lacks tact and diplomacy and it taints the reputation of a man who represents a popular football club," the spokesman said, adding that Bates's remark was a slight on the entire Jewish community in England.
Teomim: We will answer on the pitch
Hapoel Tel Aviv Chairman Moshe Teomim issued a reserved response yesterday. "I know our supporters, they always pay full price for their tickets," he said. "More importantly, we have to be focused on the task ahead: to beat Chelsea and prove that we are a valuable outfit despite the fact that the worth of all Chelsea's players is 200 million pounds - 60 times more than Hapoel."
"This is definitely a David-and-Goliath battle, and there is a good opportunity for David to win," Teomim said.
"After the difficult experience we had with the Austrians, we need to know how to avoid provocation and not to get dragged into an argument. We will give our answer on the pitch," Teomim continued.
Hapoel's management will stay on in London a day longer than the players to meet with members of the Jewish community. "We have been swamped with requests from people who want to come to the game, I wish we could satisfy them all," Teomim added.
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