LONDON (AP) – Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich received Israeli President Isaac Herzog at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as part of the Premier League club’s campaign against anti-Semitism.
The small event, attended by about 50 people, marked the first time Abramovich had been seen at Chelsea’s stadium since 2018, when he withdrew his application for a UK visa extension.
The Russian-Israeli businessman traveled to London as an Israeli citizen and spent about two hours on Sunday morning at the Imperial War Museum London to see the Holocaust galleries he helped fund with donations.
Abramovich is funding the club’s “Say No to Anti-Semitism” initiative to address concerns about hatred toward Jewish people. Herzog, at the beginning of a visit to London, expressed concern about discrimination in sport during a speech to the public in a suite at Chelsea’s stadium.
“The culture and politics of sports sometimes bring out the worst in humanity,” Herzog said, “as we have seen time and time again with anti-Semitic, racist and violent incidents inside and outside stadiums and in the refusal of athletes to compete against , or shaking hands with their Israeli counterparts.”
The afternoon tea event also celebrated Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, who competed for Great Britain in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in weightlifting, turning 92 on Monday. Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck highlighted the club’s “49 Flames” initiative, which refers to the number of Olympic medalists killed in the Holocaust.
Abramovich could be present at Chelsea’s Champions League game against Juventus on Tuesday. He has not been seen at a home game since the UK visa complexity surfaced in 2018. An application for visa extension took longer than usual and was withdrawn.
It came at a time when Britain promised to review the long-term visas of wealthy Russians in the wake of the poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. Britain blames Russia for the couple’s exposure to a nerve agent, a claim Moscow vehemently denies, and Abramovich is not associated with.
Abramovich has since attended Chelsea matches abroad, including the Champions League final win over Manchester City in the Portuguese city of Porto in May. He also went to Boston in 2019 to watch Chelsea play a friendly against the New England Revolution to raise money for the campaign against anti-Semitism.