The Belgian Football Union’s appeals commission on complaints has acquitted Bruges of a disciplinary charge for anti-Semitic chants by its spectators at a Jupiler Pro playoff match away to RSC Anderlecht, Belga news agency reported on Monday. Bruges supporters had chanted “Whoever does not jump is gay” and “All Jews are gay,” during the match in the Constant Vanden Stock stadium, and the Office of the Federal Prosecutor had requested a heavy fine for the club. “We need to make sure we do not harm our international image as a footballing nation,” Federal Prosecutor Kris Wagner had said. “What constitutes acceptable behaviour evolves with time. Today, these chants are offensive.”
However, on Friday, the appeals commission acquitted Bruges. Attorney Hannes D’Hoop explained that the chants were not discriminatory, nor were they aimed at offending Jews or homosexuals, but the perception was negative.
While the Pro League recently beefed up federal rules on racism and chants, the Appeals Commission on complaints upheld the club’s arguments. “The chants ought to be viewed as neutral and inoffensive,” it said. “The terms used simply indicate a sexual orientation or a population group. The word ‘Jewish’ has no derogatory or discriminatory connotation, nor does the word ‘homo’,” the Commission stated in its verdict.
Bruges had hit the news in December 2018, when a video dating back to its victory against Anderlecht in late August showed a small group of fans shouting anti-Semitic chants and a video of a song on “the destruction of the Jews” was circulated on the Internet.