More Than 30 Universities And Sports Teams Adopt IHRA Definition At End Of Last Year

January 12, 2021

As 2020 came to a close,  more than 30 sports teams, universities and one town council, adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism last December. Primarily in the United Kingdom, the spate of adoptions closed out a year in which a growing number of countries, local governments, educational institutions, and civil society organizations, adopted the definition in an effort to curb increasing Jew-hatred the world over. 

The University of Manitoba Student Union (Canada) adopted the definition last month, along with the University of Vlorë “Ismail Qemali” (Albania), which became the first institution of higher education in the Balkans to do so. The other 29 entities, including the Scarborough Council (England), were British universities and sports clubs.

In an effort led by Lord John Mann, the UK’s Independent Advisor to the Government on Antisemitism, the English Premier League adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, “as part of its ongoing commitment to promote equality and diversity, and to combat discrimination of any form in football.” The league is comprised of the UK’s top 20 football clubs. Following the league’s adoption,  nearly all of its constituent football clubs proceeded to individually adopted the definition, including Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leeds football clubs.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, UK independent adviser on antisemitism Lord John Mann, Frank Lampard and IHRA executive secretary Dr Kathrin Meyer signing the declaration formally adopting the IHRA definition. Photo: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea F.C. was the first football club in the UK to adopt the IHRA definition, in January 2020. Sheffield United F.C. was the only Premier League team to decline adopting the IHRA definition.

Throughout 2020, the vast majority of universities in the United Kingdom adopted the IHRA definition to combat rising anti-Semitism towards Jewish students on campus. In an October 2020 letter, UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson called on all universities across the country to adopt the IHRA definition, or face cuts. Williamson wrote in a letter to vice-chancellors that there were still “too many disturbing incidents of anti-Semitism on campus and a lack of willingness by too many universities to confront this”.

Following Williamson’s plea, dozens of universities in the UK adopted the definition. In December, top institutions including the University of Oxford, the University of York, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Liverpool and the University of Birmingham were among a dozen British universities to adopt the definition last month.


The United Kingdom was the first nation to adopt the universal anti-Semitism definition, a source of pride, according to UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues Lord Eric Pickles. As the British political system has been rocked by anti-Semitism scandals in recent years, the majority of local governing councils and now, universities and football clubs, have adopted the IHRA definition in an effort to combat anti-Semitism across all layers of society.

Watch the video below to learn more about the importance of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.