- Associated Press - Friday, November 21, 2014

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - The owner of an English soccer club is being investigated by the Football Association after making controversial comments about Jewish and Chinese people, sparking a backlash from community leaders and sponsors on Friday.

Wigan owner Dave Whelan made the remarks to The Guardian newspaper while defending his decision to hire Malky Mackay as the club’s manager, even though Mackay is under investigation for sending racist and anti-Semitic text messages.

Commenting on a text by Mackay about Jewish people and money, Whelan said: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.”

The 77-year-old Whelan also said there was “nothing bad” about a message sent by Mackay in which he used a term widely perceived as being insulting toward Chinese people.

Whelan has apologized, saying he would never insult Jewish or Chinese people, but there has been an outcry over his comments and the English FA said it is “very concerned” about the matter.

“Wigan chair(man) Dave Whelan’s bigoted and racist comments about Jews are outrageous and offensive, and bring the club and the game in to disrepute,” Jonathan Arkush, the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Friday.

“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 offense caused.”

Two of Wigan’s sponsors have ended their contracts with the second-tier club in the wake of Mackay’s appointment and Whelan’s subsequent comments.

After a shirt sponsor terminated its relationship with Wigan on Thursday, sports drinks company iPro did the same Friday.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

It said the hiring of Mackay “is at odds with the company’s business ethics and commitment to best practice.”

The English FA said its governance division has written to Whelan, who has three days to respond, and that the case is being dealt with “as a priority.”

“The FA is very concerned to read about the comments that have been attributed to Dave Whelan,” the governing body said. “We take all forms of discrimination seriously.”

The FA recently banned a vice president of a regional football association for four months for making a sexist remark to a female official. The president of Italy’s football federation was banned for six months by UEFA in October for a racist comment during his election campaign.

Whelan is a former footballer who was forced to retire early because of injury and then started amassing wealth through a chain of supermarkets and sports stores, enabling him to finance the purchase of Wigan. Whelan was raised in the northern city.

Whelan is a popular, if outspoken, member of the English football community. In a radio interview in 2011, he said black players should “get on with it” if they were racially abused on the field.

Mackay took the Wigan job on Wednesday even though the FA is still looking into a dossier from his time as Cardiff manager, when he sent text messages to a colleague that Mackay acknowledged were “completely unacceptable, inappropriate.” Details of the exchanges, which the League Managers Association said were “disrespectful of other cultures,” were leaked to the media.

“I know that this appointment will draw criticism in some quarters,” Whelan said after hiring Mackay, “but we go into it with our eyes open and we have nothing to hide on this subject. Malky made a mistake, he knows that, we know that.”

Wigan is in its second season back in the second-tier League Championship after being relegated from the Premier League in 2013.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide