The chair of the Football Association’s Inclusion and Advisory Board (IAB) has apologised for historical tweets “that have caused offence when read in the context of horrific recent events in Israel and Palestine”.
Former semi-professional footballer Deji Davies, who is also a non-executive director at Premier League club Brentford, issued the apology on the one-year anniversary of the FA announcing he would succeed Paul Elliott as chair of the IAB.
“I have been made aware of some tweets from 10 years ago in 2013 in which I made some comments that have caused offence when read in the context of horrific recent events in Israel and Palestine,” Davies posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“As I do not wish to cause any further offence, they have been deleted.
“Since then I have learned more about the complexities of what is clearly an incredibly difficult, nuanced subject and I continue to learn.
“My current views on the situation are clear, the barbaric acts of Hamas last weekend were horrific and resulted in the loss of many innocent victims. What is now occurring with the loss of innocent lives across Israel and Palestine is heartbreaking and I stand behind the FA’s message of peace and unity for all.”
The FA Inclusion Advisory Board was formed in 2013 and its role is to work alongside and challenge the Executive and the Board of the FA in the creation and delivery of the governing body’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategies.
Davies’ apology came less than 24 hours after the rabbi who chairs the FA’s Faith in Football network quit over the decision not to illuminate the Wembley Stadium arch in blue and white to represent the Israeli flag for Friday’s international friendly with Australia.
Goldberg: The FA has failed
In a wide-ranging letter to FA chief Mark Bullingham, Rabbi Alex Goldberg said he was “profoundly disappointed” the FA chose not to have a “specific tribute” for the game. Both teams wore black armbands during the match, with a moment of silence observed ahead of kick-off.
Rabbi Goldberg said he had worked with the FA for 16 years on community relations and bringing communities together, adding he had resigned because “ultimately the FA has failed”.
In a statement, an FA spokesperson made clear the Faith in Football network “is not part of the FA’s governance structure” insisting they were sorry to hear of Rabbi Goldberg’s decision to resign.
“Although this is an informal group that is not part of the FA’s governance structure, we are grateful for the support he has provided over the years,” the statement added.
The FA Inclusion Advisory Board, by contrast, reports directly into the FA Board.
Rabbi Goldberg’s resignation came as the FA was branded “spineless” and condemned for its “weak response” to the Hamas attack in Israel after announcing the Wembley Stadium arch would not be illuminated.
Over the years, the Wembley arch has been illuminated in the colours of the flags of countries, including France, Turkey and Ukraine, within days of attacks.
There are clear sensitivities – with some wanting Palestinian deaths acknowledged.
Kick It Out trustee and government independent anti-racism adviser Lord Mann told Sky News that inconsistencies around how other terror attacks were commemorated politicised the FA.
He added: “British citizens were murdered in Israel by Hamas terrorists and they’ve chosen not to recognise it and I find that depressingly sad.
“And there’s a lot of anger out there in the Jewish community and the message is Jews don’t count in football.”
On Thursday, the Cabinet minister responsible for sport, Lucy Frazer, criticised the FA in a social media post.
“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,” she wrote.
“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.”
Then, just hours before kick-off at Wembley, Israel Football Association president Moshe Zuares hit out at what he deemed a lack of support for the country.
“There are moments in history when truth is one, sharp and clear. Such is the present time. More than 1,200 children, babies, women, men and old people were slaughtered by a barbaric enemy, who committed crimes against humanity,” he said in a statement released on social media.
“The only sin of the victims was that they were Israelis. Those who are afraid to light up a stadium in memory of the murdered and for the sake of historical truth, for reasons that cannot be understood at all and perhaps it is better not to even try, are in an even darker time than the one in my country is currently in.
“When this happens by the FA of a nation that has always known how to be a moral lighthouse for the free world, it is more disappointing than ever. I tried to explain this to my colleagues in the English FA several times in the past few days but they insisted on not understand (sic). Now they are the ones who need to explain.”
Premier League players, managers and match officials will wear black armbands and observe a moment’s silence at the fixtures taking place on the weekend of October 21-23.