FA chief executive Martin Glenn has apologised for appearing to equate the Star of David to the swastika in his criticism of Pep Guardiola’s decision to wear a “highly divisive” yellow ribbon.
Mr Glenn said he was sorry “for any offence caused” by the examples of “political symbols” he gave when criticising the Manchester City manager’s decision to repeatedly wear the ribbon, which is a show of support for pro-independence politicians in his native Catalonia.
The 47-year-old has continued to sport the ribbon in protest against the imprisonment of pro-independence politicians, despite being charged for doing so because the FA deems it a breach of kit and advertising rules.
Speaking after a meeting of top football officials in Zurich, Mr Glenn said it was “highly divisive” and attempted to justify the charge against Guardiola by including the Jewish religious symbol and the Nazi icon among a list of “political symbols” that the FA did not want displayed on “football equipment”.
“We have re-written Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are okay, but things that are going to be highly divisive, and that could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like Robert Mugabe on your shirt, these are the things we don’t want,” he explained.
“And, to be honest, and to be very clear, Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon is a political symbol, it’s a symbol of Catalan independence, and I can tell you there are many more Spaniards, non-Catalans, who are p***** off by it.
“All we are doing is evenhandedly applying the laws of the game. Poppies are not political symbols, that yellow ribbon is. Where do you draw the line? Should we have someone with a UKIP badge, someone with an ISIS badge?”
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, described the attempted justification of the charge against the Spaniard as “offensive and inappropriate”.
“I have no problem with the FA clarifying Law 4 and specifying that all religious symbols are prohibited on a kit if that is the case, but, in explaining that decision, the CEO of the FA’s examples are ill judged and in poor taste,” he said.
“The Star of David is a Jewish religious symbol of immense importance to Jews worldwide. To put it in the same bracket as the swastika and Robert Mugabe is offensive and inappropriate.”
He said the council would make the FA aware of the “deep disappointment” among the Jewish community regarding the comments, prompting Mr Glenn to issue a formal apology.
“I would like to apologise for any offence caused by the examples I gave when referring to political and religious symbols in football, specifically in reference to the Star of David, which is a hugely important symbol to Jewish people all over the world,” he said.
“I will be speaking with the Jewish Leadership Council and to Kick It Out to personally apologise.”
Mr Glenn had been speaking ahead of the deadline for Guardiola to respond to his charge, which is 6pm on Monday.
Last week the Spaniard said he will only stop wearing the ribbon if Manchester City officials ask him to, or if it adversely affects his side’s Premier League-leading form.
“My personal opinion is not a political opinion,” he said.
“When men and women put on a red (pink) ribbon it’s because of the support for the breast cancer initiative. The same as when I wear the prostate cancer badge. The idea is the same.”