The Football Association has apologised to the Jewish community for refusing to illuminate the Wembley arch in the colours of the Israeli flag following the barbaric Hamas attacks on October 7.
FA bosses came under fire after deciding to hold a minute’s silence and ask players to wear black armbands instead of lighting up the stadium for England’s match against Australia – which came six days after Hamas massacred 1,200 Israelis.
Last year, the arch turned blue and yellow in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while it was illuminated in rainbow colours in support of LGBT people amid the ‘OneLove’ armband row at the Qatar World Cup.
Debbie Hewitt, the chair of the FA, wrote in Jewish News today that the Hamas attacks ‘were a deep shock to u all’, adding: ‘Our response was motivated by a desire to unite rather than divide, built on a hope, which we all share, to see peace in the region.’
She continued: ‘We recognise that this is a deeply traumatic time for the Jewish community in the United Kingdom and beyond and we are truly sorry for the hurt our response caused.’
The apology comes just weeks after it was confirmed Wembley will stop lighting up its arch to mark terror attacks and social causes around the world – and will only do so for occasions directly related to the stadium’s use as a sport and music venue.
The Football Association has apologised to the Jewish community for refusing to illuminate the Wembley arch in the colours of the Israeli flag. Pictured: The Wembley arch was lit up in yellow and blue in support of Ukraine in February to mark the one year of the Russian invasion
Debbie Hewitt (pictured), the chair of the FA, said that the horrifying Hamas attacks on October 7 ‘were a deep shock to us all’ as she apologised to the Jewish community
In response to the FA’s apology, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism told MailOnline: ‘This is a nice statement. Shame it took two months, significant pressure and considerable embarrassment for the FA to issue it.
‘Not only did the FA refuse to light up the Wembley arch, but it even resolved never to light up the arch again for social and political causes – just to avoid having to do it following the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
‘This scandal was entirely avoidable if only the FA had shown the same concern for Jews as it does for other minority groups and causes.’
Ms Hewitt also outlined that the FA would ‘reinforce its current anti-discrimination work by delivering further antisemitism awareness education with Kick It Out’.
The FA’s first chairwoman said antisemitism has ‘absolutely no place in our game or in the lives of our nation’.
Due to an outpouring of pro-Palestinian protests within the UK, the FA had chosen not to show support for Israel at Wembley amid the conflict.
Lord John Mann, the Government’s antisemitism adviser, claimed lighting up the arch would have provided a ‘message of hope and comfort’ to the Jewish community in Britain.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Israeli professional football leagues wrote to the Premier League to say he was ‘amazed shocked and disappointed beyond words’ at the lack of response to Hamas’s terrorist attack in Israel.
In the past, the Wembley arch has also been illuminated in rainbow colours to support LGBTQ + rights (pictured)
The Wembley arch pictured unlit ahead England’s match against Australia on October 13 – six days after Hamas’s barbaric attack
Lord John Mann (pictured), the Government’s antisemitism adviser, said lighting up the arch would have provided a ‘message of hope and comfort’ to Britain’s Jewish community
Amid a backlash over the FA’s decision not to light up the Wembley arch, Lord Mann described it as ‘mind-blowing’ and an Israeli football boss declared himself ‘disappointed beyond words’.
Sporting bodies across the UK have been urged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to pay tribute at sporting events to victims of violence in Israel after attacks by Palestinian terror group Hamas on the country.
The FA’s silence led to the resignation of the FA’s Faith in Football network, Rabbi Alex Goldberg, due to the lack of ‘specific tribute’ to Israel.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said at the time: ‘I recognise that our decision caused hurt to the Jewish community who felt that we should have lit the arch and that we should have shown stronger support for them.
‘This was one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make, and the last thing we ever wanted to do in this situation was to add to the hurt.’
He added that not everyone has to agree with their decision but should try to ‘understand how we reached it’.
In future, the Wembley arch will be lit up for football and entertainment purposes. It will also be lit to mark the deaths of famous national figures – such as a monarch – as it was when Queen Elizabeth II passed away last year.