Jewish group calls for Burnley Football Club to rename Turf Moor's Bob Lord Stand in light of anti-Semitic comments made in 1970s

A Jewish group has called on Burnley Football Club to rename its Bob Lord Stand, after it highlighted anti-Semitic comments made by the club’s controversial late chairman in the 1970s.

By Dominic Collis
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 8:38 am

Mr Keith Appleby, deputy of the St Albans United Synagogue, has claimed that Burnley’s former chairman Bob Lord was “openly anti-Semitic”, citing a speech Mr Lord gave in 1974 at a Variety Club dinner in which he said: “We have to stand up against a move to get soccer on the cheap by the Jews who run TV.”

The remark caused anger at the time and many guests walked out of the event in protest. Letters of complaint were sent to Sir Andrew Stephen, chairman of the Football Association, and Len Shipman, president of the Football League, urging them to repudiate the “abhorrent and obscene” remarks as “not being in the interests of football or honourable behaviour”.

Mr Lord apologised for the comments.

A Jewish group has called for Turf Moor's Bob Lord Stand to be renamed over historic anti-Semitic comments made by the former chairman

However, Mr Appleby has now said Burnley Football Club should rename the stand at Turf Moor.

Speaking after a Board of Deputies meeting of the synagogue, Mr Appleby asked: “Burnley Football Club have a stand named after a past owner Bob Lord who was openly anti-Semitic. In these days of ‘zero tolerance’ can anything be done to encourage the club to change the name of the stand?”

In response a statement from Burnley Football Club said: “Anti-Semitism continues to be a problem in the UK and in our society, and it is right that as a football club and as a government we are able to demonstrate the seriousness in which we take it, as we do for other forms of hate crime. Anti-Semitism must be understood for what it is – an attack on the identity of people who live, contribute, and are valued in our society.

“Burnley Football Club and its commitment to tackling all forms of discrimination as defined by the Equality Act 2010 has been built on the solid work of UK legislation and standards as set by the Premier League, English Football League, The Football Association and Kick it Out.

Burnley Football Club's controversial late chairman Bob Lord

“We are aware of historical matters that are openly available in the public domain regarding former Burnley FC chairman Bob Lord, this and ongoing discussion concerning Bob Lord remain under review by Burnley Football Club, The Football Association, Kick it Out and other authorities and personnel.

“It is extremely important to Burnley Football Club to keep an open dialogue with the local and wider Jewish community, and we urge anyone who has experienced or been impacted by antisemitism in football to report it directly to Kick it Out using their online reporting form or via the dedicated Kick it Out reporting app.”

The club have now launched a probe into the matter.

Local writer and historian Mr Dave Thomas, who has written a biography of Bob Lord, said the comments made in 1974 needed to be placed in context.

Mr Thomas said: “Before anyone jumps on the rename the Bob Lord Stand bandwagon, can I suggest they read Chapter 17 of the Bob Lord biography... where this controversy is looked at in great detail and put into context.

"You will find words from football historian Simon Inglis, himself Jewish I believe. Inglis also puts the one remark into context. Of course, the great problem is that those who look for offence, will not accept context.

"Other than this one remark there is no evidence to suggest that Lord was deeply anti-Semitic. In fact, amongst his closest friends in football were the directors of Tottenham Hotspur, mainly Jewish.

"He was not best friends with the Jewish directors of Leeds United, but that was for football reasons, namely the way that Leeds United back then were determined to cripple his beloved Burnley players.

"Lord had many faults and sadly it is those that he is too often remembered for. The good that he did and the club that he built and all the work he put into that, is overlooked.

"Then there is the question of just how far you go. If it is renamed, it is still the stand that he built. So, do you demolish it? He built the Cricket Field Stand; do you demolish that?

"Do you look to rid the stadium of every trace of him? Gawthorpe Training Ground was his creation. Do you now sell it?

"Do people remember when it was called The Totally Wicked Bob Lord Stand? Now that was worth a chuckle. History is what it is. We learn from it, not obliterate it.”

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The Clarets Trust, a group which represents Burnley fans to the club, made the following statement: “The Clarets Trust welcomes the internal investigation into this matter being held by Burnley FC and looks forward with interest as to their thoughts once they have met with the local and wider Jewish community.

"The comments made by Bob Lord were repugnant and he was rightfully condemned at the time. Football should be a community for all and we stand united in banishing racism and prejudice from our wonderful game.”

Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out said: "Burnley FC are running an internal investigation around Bob Lord so I think until they’ve done their due diligence, met with key stakeholders, and gathered all relevant information, we wouldn’t be able to comment further.”

Lord was the son of a barber who started his own company as a butcher at the age of 19.

An avid follower of Burnley FC, Lord became a board member and eventually chairman in 1955.

Following the appointment of Harry Potts as manager in 1958, Burnley were league champions in 1960, and reached the FA Cup Final in 1962. The development of Gawthorpe training ground made Burnley the envy of all the other clubs.

But as football changed and the city clubs grew richer, Burnley could not afford to keep up without selling its best players.