Incidents of racism and violence are down this year in Israeli soccer, according to a report released this week by the NIF program, Kick It Out Israel.
Racist chants dropped this season in Israel’s Premier League from 79 incidents last season to 58 incidents this season, according to the report. A significant improvement was seen with Beitar Jerusalem whose fans have in the past have notoriously shouted “Death to Arabs” at matches. Since March, racist chants at the Beitar games have been met with boos by other fans wishing to silence the slurs.
The greatest improvement was among the Bnei Yehuda team’s fans, with only five incidents of racist shouting, down from 11 last year.
The chants in Israel often are anti-Arab but also, at times, reference the Holocaust and the Nazis.
Monitoring of racism and violence at soccer matches is a key component of the Kick It Out Israel program. Forty monitors over the season attend every game of the league to report on racist chants.
The reports on racism have made an impact, bringing Israeli President Ruby Rivlin to adopt the issue and to reward teams that do not participate in racism with a prize.
Financial incentives may also be at play. Beitar Jerusalem‘s reputation for having racist fans has cost it in sponsorship dollars. The team’s management has cracked down on the trend and some players, influenced by the change in attitude, have considered leaving the field when such chants are heard.