Wigan owner Dave Whelan has apologised for any offence and defended his position after being accused of anti-Semitism and told he is not “fit and proper” to run a club.
The controversy over Wigan’s appointment of Malky Mackay as manager deepened when Whelan told a newspaper: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else.”
Whelan had been asked by The Guardian to comment on the text messages Mackay sent to Iain Moody, his former head of recruitment at Cardiff, for which he is currently the subject of a Football Association investigation.
Whelan claimed he saw little offence in a text which, referring to the Jewish football agent Phil Smith, allegedly read: “Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers.”
Whelan said: “The Jews don’t like losing money. Nobody likes losing money.”
That prompted a strong response from Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson, who is also a former FA and Premier League executive.
Johnson told The Guardian: “Unfortunately Mr Mackay and now Mr Whelan have referred to some of the worst old-fashioned tropes which have been used in the past as the basis of anti-semitism and stereotyping of Jewish people.
“Mackay used offensive language to insult a fellow participant in football using a tawdry racial stereotype.”
Whelan also told the newspaper he did not view the word “c***k” as offensive. Mackay had allegedly referred to Cardiff owner Vincent Tan, who is from Malaysia, by that word.
Furthermore, Whelan also said that he had been told by senior figures that “nothing will come” of the FA’s investigation.
That was met with a swift rebuttal from the governing body, while anti-discriminatory body Kick It Out, which had strongly condemned Mackay’s appointment by the Sky Bet Championship club, questioned Whelan’s position.
Whelan hit back at Kick It Out, telling Sky Sports News: “I take those comments with a pinch of salt. If they think I am not a fit and proper person to run a football club, I would strongly object to that.
“I played football for 15 years in all four divisions, I’ve had massive experience in football, I’ve brought Wigan from the Fourth Division to the Premier League and 18 months ago we won the FA Cup.
“I cannot accept people would think I’d insult them or football in any way, shape or form.”
When asked specifically about the comments referring to Jewish and Chinese people, Whelan was also apologetic.
He said: “I would never, ever insult a Jewish person. I have got hundreds and hundreds of Jewish friends. I would never upset a Jewish person I would neve upset them because I hold them in the highest regard.
“If anyone takes offence to anything I have said, please accept my sincere apology. It’s either a misquote or on that day I must have done 50 interviews.”
He added: “The Chinese community – again, I’ve got loads of Chinese friends. I would never insult the Chinese. I know Malky Mackay insulted them and they take that name seriously. I understand their point of view completely. He apologised to them and I hope they accept that.
“I apologise on my behalf and on behalf of the club. We do not ever want to insult any nation or any person in the world.”