English Football League club Forest Green Rovers has been accused of bringing the game into disrepute by flying the Palestinian flag and displaying anti-Israel slogans at home matches.

Club owner, Dale Vince, also invited the UK’s Palestinian envoy, Husam Zomlot, onto the pitch at a match last year and displayed digital advertising boards that read, “End the invasion and occupation of Palestine”. The owner also controversially tweeted comparisons between Israel’s actions and the conflict in Ukraine.

The Gloucestershire club, which won promotion into League One last season, has recently lost a sponsor over its pro-Palestinian stance. 

Advocacy group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) has written to the club and the Football Association arguing that flying the Palestinian flag and using pitch-side boards to condemn Israel is a breach of the club’s own charter, as well as FA regulations on keeping politics out of the sport.

The Jewish Chronicle (JC) reports that Mr Vince, has “repeatedly flown a Palestinian flag” at the club’s home ground The New Lawn in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.

According to the JC, ethical pet care company Hownd recently announced it was terminating its three-year sponsorship deal with the club as a result of Mr Vince’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“On one occasion, the flag appeared when the Jewish owner of a company that had paid to sponsor the match ball was at the game with his two sons,” the report says.

Mr Hirschel told the JC that he and his two sons, aged 20 and 17, were VIP guests at the game because Hownd was sponsoring the match ball, a once-a-year commitment as part of the company’s three-year, £27,000 sponsorship deal, signed in August 2021. Mr Herschel said: “It was a very special occasion that we’d looked forward to.

“We were wined and dined before the game and were in the club’s function room with Dale and about 100 other VIP guests.

“Suddenly, my youngest son spotted a Palestinian flag flying high above one of the stands and told me. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was shocked and very surprised.

 

“In hindsight, I should have taken it up with Dale immediately, grabbed the boys and walked out, but at the time I didn’t want to act in haste.

“I watched the game, just wanting it to be over so I could leave the ground, but at the final whistle I couldn’t even do that because I had to meet the players afterwards.

“When I got home, I spoke to my business partner, who is also Jewish, and we agreed to write a formal letter to Dale asking him for an explanation.”

According to the JC, Mr Vince took to Twitter to defend the decision to fly the flag, writing: “We flew this flag at FGR’s game today. In solidarity with Palestine. The conflict there has all the same ingredients as the one in Ukraine — invasion, occupation, murder of civilians, destruction of homes and hospitals — and sieges.”

Two weeks later, the Palestinian flag was raised again and Mr Vince interviewed Husam Zomlot on the pitch in front of anti-Israel banners.

dale vicne

UKLFI said it had received a complaint from a Forest Green Rovers season ticket holder about Mr Vince’s “disgraceful use of his football club to spread hateful and dangerous lies about Israel”.

In its letter of complaint to the FA’s CEO, Mark Bullingham, UKLFI said Mr Vince’s actions breached the FA’s equality policy requiring club officials to confront and eliminate discrimination based on nationality.

An FA spokesperson said it had “reviewed” the anti-Israel advertising hoardings, but did not consider them to be in breach of its regulations.

The spokesperson added: “The FA can confirm that it is not a breach of its regulations for any internationally recognised national flags to be displayed in English football stadiums.”

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