Top Austrian Soccer Organizations Adopt IHRA Definition at Vienna Forum on Fighting Antisemitism in Sports

The ceremony at the Judenplatz in Vienna, Austria, last week, where the Austrian Football Association (OFB) and Austrian Football Bundesliga announced their adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism. Photo: HBF / Pusch.

November 16, 2021

The Austrian Football Association (OFB) and Austrian Football Bundesliga officially adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism last week.

This important step was announced during the one-day “Global Conference on Football’s Role in Combating Antisemitism,” hosted in Vienna by the Chelsea FC Foundation, the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), the Office of Lord Mann, and the International Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA).

The forum featured the participation of prominent officials from across the globe, including: Austrian Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler; Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler; UK Government Independent Adviser on Antisemitism and Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Advisory Board Member Lord John Mann; European Commission Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life Katharina von Schnurbein; IHRA Secretary-General Dr. Kathrin Meyer; and Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai, among others.

In addition to Chelsea, representatives of fellow top-flight European soccer team, Borussia Dortmund, also attended the gathering.

The speeches and panel discussions focused on the influential role athletic clubs can play in fighting antisemitic bigotry both on and off the playing field.

“Football has a strong integrative power that we use to stand up for our values ​​and to take a resolute stand against antisemitism and racism in all forms,” OFB President Gerhard Milletich said.

IKG President Oskar Deutsch commented, “Due to the reach of football and the players’ function as role models for many, this adoption is of special relevance for our fight against antisemitism. Together, we will pursue activities with fans as well as football-amateurs to fight antisemitism on every level.”

In 2021, the CAM Information Hub has tracked 52 media reports of sports-related antisemitic incidents worldwide, 36 of which were tied to soccer. A majority of the incidents monitored in the soccer realm had far-right connotations.

The most common occurrences are antisemitic chants and gestures by fans. For example, a match in Rome between Lazio and Inter Milan in October was marred by Lazio supporters performing fascist salutes. And just two weeks ago, in early November, Nazi salutes were seen being directed by SBV Vitesse supporters toward Tottenham Hostpur fans at a match in London.

SBV Vitesse supporters are seen performing Nazi salutes at a match against Tottenham Hostpur, Nov. 4, 2021.


In the Netherlands in July, a Dutch soccer star, Steven Berghuis, was targeted with antisemitic vitriol after he signed a contract with Amsterdam-based Ajax, which has long been associated by some fans with the Jewish community. A mural in Rotterdam, home to Berghuis’ former club Feyenoord, depicted the winger, who is not Jewish, wearing a kippah and a Nazi concentration camp uniform.

The antisemitic mural in Rotterdam, Netherlands, targeting Ajax winger Steven Berghuis. Photo: Courtesy of CIDI.


And earlier this month, West Ham United condemned antisemitic chants its supporters targeted a Jewish passenger with on an airplane.

Such behavior was one of the driving motives behind Chelsea’s launch of its “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign in 2018.

In 2020, Chelsea became the first sports team in the world to adopt the IHRA definition, and Borussia Dortmund followed suit later the same year.

Hundreds of governmental bodies, educational institutions, and cultural entities worldwide have joined the collective effort against antisemitism in recent years by adopting the IHRA definition — the most authoritative, comprehensive, and representative tool to delineate all of the contemporary manifestations of the age-old scourge of Jew-hatred.