The World Jewish Congress and Chelsea Football Club on Wednesday selected the winner of the United Kingdom portion of a global campaign to combat widespread racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in sports, awarding £7,500 to Nick Spooner of Sheffield, for his proposal, “Know The Score: Tackling Online Radicalisation and Offline Hate.”
The Pitch for Hope competition called on young people ages 18-30 in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Israel to propose creative ideas for an initiative to harness the spirit of comradery in sports and build bridges between people of all backgrounds, faiths and walks of life.
Spooner, who serves as the digital organiser of the Hope Not Hate activist community, said of his winning proposal: “With this project, we’re really looking forward to equipping the next generation of students with the tools to fight prejudice and discrimination of any kind both on their campuses and off.”
Spooner envisions his project to extend to 12 universities, featuring three core points: using in-depth research and data-monitoring software to track hateful content online; engaging in in-depth research to give students the tools to critically asses what counter-narratives to use to push back against hate, and what language to use to be the most effective, as well as how to be emotionally resilient; and bringing students into the online counter-narrative community.
Spooner was chosen from among six finalists from across the UK. Jack Nicholls of London was named second place winner for his project “Passing Through The Past”, securing a prize of £3,750. Emily Window of Canterbury, Kent took third place for her proposal, “InclusiVarsity: Promoting Inclusivity with University Sports Teams.”
WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer congratulated the winners and each of the participants for their efforts and ideas. “The World Jewish Congress and Chelsea launched this initiative with the hope that by engaging young leaders, and supporting your energy, vision and ambition, we might truly be able to change the discourse about racism and antisemitism in sports,” Singer said. “Your proposals are even more powerful than we expected and give us serious optimism that one day we will actually see a sporting world free of hatred. We wish the winners the best of luck in their endeavors and will continue to stand beside you to help turn our collective dream into reality.”
Simon Taylor, Head of the Chelsea Foundation, said: “Sport has the unique ability to bring people together. Through our Building Bridges initiate we are using football to inspire our communities around the world to celebrate equality. Alongside the World Jewish Congress, the Red Card for Hate program underlines this commitment and to see the ideas on show this evening was a real privilege. It was an honour to see so much passion and commitment demonstrated by the young people.”
The final US and Israel competition were held on October 4. Seren Fryatt of Washington D.C. and Alyssa Chassman of London were named as the winning team in New York, securing a $10,000 grant WJC to turn their idea for a virtual 48-hour hackathon of ideas, called Unite 2030 — 20 multicultural teams developing what it means to promote inclusion in sports — into reality. In Tel Aviv, Idan Amos, Michael Shapira, and Raveh Shahar Tirosh, students at the Benjamin Rothman Emek Yaffe High School in the Gilboa Valley of Israel took the top prize for their idea to create a line of shirts and scarves for soccer fans, displaying the logos and symbols of opposing teams on a single item of clothing, in order to draw rivals together in a spirit of comradery.
The winners from each country will join UK winner Spooner, and officials from the WJC and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, October 18, to officially present their proposals, and have been invited to watch the Chelsea-Manchester United game on October 20 together with officials from the organizations.
The competition is the first stage of WJC and Chelsea’s three-pronged Red Card for Hate initiative, and part of Chelsea FC’s overall Say No to Antisemitism campaign, launched in January at Stamford Bridge. Red Card for Hate will continue in the next stage with a video series and culminate next spring in Paris with a global summit of ministers and sporting officials from around the world.
This initiative was made possible due to a generous contribution from Chelsea FC Club owner Roman Abramovich and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder.
Photos: (c) Gary Perlmutter / World Jewish Congress