Politicians line up to demand West Ham United's board ban Democratic Football Lads Alliance
PUBLISHED: 14:22 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:28 27 March 2019
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Politicians have urged West Ham United's board to ban activists accused of fuelling racism in football.
East End MPs Stephen Timms, Lyn Brown, Jon Cruddas and Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick joined Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, and Tower Hamlets mayor, John Biggs, in signing a letter to the club on Tuesday.
They call on the club to reject the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA).
The letter is also signed by London Assembly member Unmesh Desai, Rob Ferguson, from campaign group, Newham Stand Up To Racism, and by John Ratomski, chairman of West Ham United independent supporters club.
Ahead of Saturday’s match against Everton they state: “We ask that West Ham United FC issue a clear unequivocal statement that the DFLA form no part of the West Ham family; they are not welcome at West Ham and never will be.”
They add that following the terror attacks in New Zealand – when 50 worshippers were killed in mosques – everyone had to play a part in making sure Islamophobia, racism, antisemitism and hate crime have no place in communities or football.
The politicians also warn far right activists are targeting matches to recruit supporters under the banner of the DFLA which they accused of fuelling anti-Muslim hatred and organising violent demonstrations.
The letter says: “Football is a place where those of all backgrounds and faiths can come together in celebration of sport. Unfortunately, that is now under threat as the DFLA promote racism and division.”
They welcome the club’s condemnation of the kind of racism and Islamophobia directed at Liverpool forward Mo Salah but add there was a need to “isolate those who promote such poison”.
Commenting, Mayor Fiaz said: “It’s vital that we all take every measure to combat discrimination and hatred in all it’s forms, and that includes West Ham United as an important partner in our community.
“Racist, fascist, anti-immigrant, antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric is on the rise here and around the world. It is not welcome in Newham and it never will be.”
Mr Desai said: “We must all play our part in rooting out racist, right-wing ideology. This means challenging groups like the DFLA.
“I cannot understand West Ham FC’s apparent reluctance to do so.”
Mr Ferguson added: “The club has a responsibility to the fans and community to root out this malign force.”
A West Ham United spokesman said: “It is well known that the club is unequivocal in its stance against all forms of racism and discrimination.
“Islamophobia, racism, antisemitism and hate crime have no place in our communities and no place in football and we are bemused as to how anyone can think otherwise. This is something West Ham United is passionate about.
“This weekend, when West Ham face Everton, the club will once again be clear, showcasing our work and highlighting our approach through video, the matchday programme, social media and our partners, that equality is at the heart of West Ham United, that our community values run deep throughout the club and that any belief, group or movement that does not share those values will not be welcome.”
A DFLA committee member said it was an open organisation and denied targeting fans or fuelling racism.
“This is utterly ridiculous. We’re against extremism and racism. We’re not a far right group,” he said.
He added the DFLA had lain a wreath outside the New Zealand embassy following the Christchurch attacks and barred racists.