Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks after he reportedly claimed Jewish people “chase money more than everybody else”.
The former JJB Sports chief has also been criticised by anti-racism groups after he reportedly claimed there was “nothing bad” in calling a Chinese person a “c***k”, as he defended his decision to appoint a new manager embroiled in a racism row.
Malky Mackay was named the new Latics boss on Tuesday despite being the subject of a Football Association investigation into text messages sent during his time as Cardiff manager.
One text referred to Jewish football agent Phil Smith with the words “Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers”, while in another message, Mackay referred to Cardiff’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan as a “c***k”.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Mr Whelan, 77, was reported to have said: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.”
He added: “If any Englishman said he has never called a Chinaman a c***k he is lying. There is nothing bad about doing that. It is like calling the British Brits, or the Irish Paddies.”
Later in an interview with Sky Sports News, Mr Whelan apologised to anyone he had offended and claimed the reported remarks “may have been a misquote”.
He said: “I would never insult a Jewish person. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of Jewish friends.
“If anyone takes offence at anything I’ve said, please accept my sincerest apology. It’s either a misquote or on that day I must have done 50 interviews.
“I’ve got loads of Chinese friends and I would never insult the Chinese.
“They take that name a bit more serious and they get upset a lot more than the English or the British people would if they call us names, which they do, and we take it and it doesn’t bother us. But I understand the Chinese and their point of view completely.”
Simon Johnson, a former FA and Premier League executive, who is now chief executive at the Jewish Leadership Council, said on Twitter: “I call on Dave Whelan to withdraw and apologise for his use of disgraceful anti-Semitic language.”
Anti-racism group Kick It Out said: “(Dave Whelan) has brought into question whether he is a fit and proper person who should be running a professional football club.
“The remarks act as another example of the culture which continues to exist within football, and further proves that some in positions of power seem comfortable sharing those views either privately or publicly. These comments must not go unchallenged and have to be investigated by The FA.”
West Ham co-owner David Gold, who is Jewish, has called on Mr Whelan to retract his remarks.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: “I’ve known Dave Whelan for many, many years and I’m finding this really hard to believe. I’ve never felt any anti-Semitic in Dave in any way whatsoever.
“I’m finding this very hard that he’s actually meant this. Maybe it’s words that have come out that that he will now subsequently regret.
“I’m saddened by the words but I’m hopeful that he will make this clear that that is not what he meant.”
Last week Wigan MP Lisa Nandy wrote to Mr Whelan urging him not to appoint Mr Mackay when it became apparent the Scot was a candidate for the vacancy at the DW Stadium.
Mr Whelan acknowledged concerns but pressed ahead with the appointment, prompting a strong response from Kick It Out.
That has been followed by the decision of Premier Range, which sponsors the back of Wigan’s shirts, to sever ties with the Sky Bet Championship club.
A statement from the company, which only entered its agreement with Wigan in the summer, read: “It is with great sorrow that we have to announce we are breaking our ties with Wigan Athletic FC.
“Unfortunately, their recent appointment of Malky Mackay has put us in a position that we find untenable.
“The texts Mr Mackay has admitted to sending are wholly unacceptable – and the thoughts expressed within them are a shocking reminder of a past we thought football had left behind.
“A team that would employ a man who expresses views such these is not the kind of team Premier Range wish to deal with.”
Mr Whelan’s latest comments come after he sparked controversy three years ago when he suggested black players “just got to get on with it” when asked about on-field racism in a radio interview.