Wigan owner Dave Whelan has apologised for comments he made in The Guardian which have been attacked as anti-Semitic.
The controversy has erupted following Whelan’s decision to appoint Malky Mackay as Wigan manager, despite the fact Mackay’s conduct during his time at Cardiff is the subject of an ongoing FA investigation.
The investigation concerns allegedly offensive text messages sent by Mackay, one of which referred to Jewish football agent Phil Smith and appeared to imply that a Jewish person would be more perturbed at losing money than non-Jews.
Whelan attempted to play down the remarks to The Guardian, saying: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don't think that's offensive at all.”
However, his comments were strongly criticised by the Jewish Leadership Council and he has now issued an apology.
Asked about The Guardian interview by Sky Sports, Whelan said: “I have not read what it said but I have been told what it said.
“Number one, I would never, ever insult a Jewish person. I have got hundreds and hundreds of Jewish friends. I would never, ever upset any Jewish person, because I hold them in the highest regard.
“If anybody takes offence at anything I have said, please accept my sincere apology. It is either a misquote or, on that day, I must have done 50 interviews.
“You can imagine how many times I have been on radio, television etc because of this case.
“I did not mean to insult any single person but please accept my sincere apology if they feel that way. It was not intended.”
Whelan was also remorseful about comments he made in the same Guardian interview which suggested that another term used by Mackay, which is generally considered offensive by Chinese people, was “nothing bad”.
Whelan said: “The Chinese community, again, I have got loads of Chinese friends. I would never, ever insult the Chinese. I know Malky Mackay insulted them.
“He apologised to them and I hope they accept that. I apologise to them on my behalf and on behalf of the club. We do not ever want to insult any nation or any person in the world.”
The anti-racism group Kick It Out think Whelan’s remarks in The Guardian place his position in doubt.
The group released a statement which read: “He has brought into question whether he is a fit and proper person who should be running a professional football club.
“These comments must not go unchallenged and have to be investigated by the FA.”
Whelan responded: “I take those comments, actually, 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 have played on probably every ground in England.
“I have had massive experience in football. I have brought Wigan Athletic from the fourth division to the Premier League, and two years ago we won the FA Cup.
“So I cannot accept that people think I would insult them, insult football in any way, shape or form. I love football passionately and I love Wigan Athletic passionately.
“I fight to get Wigan to do well. Our reputation, I don’t want it tarnished. We are a very happy, honest club.”