Norwich boxing coach turns protector for EDL founder Tommy Robinson
PUBLISHED: 06:24 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:49 16 July 2019
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A former boxing coach is a key member of an anti-Islamic group and provides protection for its controversial figurehead.
Glen Saffer, who was a member of the far-right English Defence League (EDL), appeared on stage at a rally last week with the EDL's founder Tommy Robinson.
When challenged yesterday about Robinson's anti-Muslim speeches, ahead of a court case today, Mr Saffer repeated rhetoric Robinson regularly spouts about Islam and child abuse. We will not be publishing his comments. Mr Saffer insisted neither he, nor Mr Robinson, were racist however.
Robinson was a member of the British National Party from 2004 to 2005 and earlier this year he was filmed making a racist slur.
But Mr Saffer said: "Tommy is not a racist. The papers lie".
He said he was a good friend and provided protection for Mr Robinson, along with other supporters.
Mr Saffer, from west Norwich, said he quit the EDL in 2014 with Robinson because it was infiltrated by extremists and racists.
But he has stayed close to the EDL founder, and said he would be alongside him on Thursday when the 36-year old is sentenced at the Old Bailey in London for contempt of court.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was found guilty of contempt last week for "encouraging vigilante action" when he filmed men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streamed the footage, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.
Mr Saffer, who claimed the contempt charge against Robinson was "trumped up", said he had known the EDL founder for around 10 years.
"Glen has been a great friend to me," said Robinson at a charity fundraiser organised by Mr Saffer in March.
But videos on YouTube show Mr Saffer is not just a great friend. He regularly appears next to him at Robinson's public events to provide security.
At a rally outside the Old Bailey in May, Mr Saffer, wearing a baseball hat saying "Tommy Robinson for Prime Minister" escorted him into the building.
And last week he appeared alongside him on stage at another rally outside the Old Bailey.
Photos posted online by the anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate also show him providing security at an event in Salford.
Mr Saffer, who ran a boxing group called Norwich Golden Gloves, said he was a volunteer.
He said he had no special role, despite being one of the few people appearing alongside Robinson on stage.
"I'm a supporter like anyone else," he said. "Everyone feels he is in danger and he must have other people with him."
He then said he would not speak to our journalist because of "lies" the media told about Robinson, before talking for 30 minutes.
He described his political views as "right" and denied holding any racist views.
Asked about his views on Islam and the extreme claims made by Robinson about the religion, he said Islamophobia was a made-up word.
He also said the far right had not infiltrated Robinson's supporter base, as they did the EDL.
Mr Saffer added the people protesting for Robinson outside court last week were "middle class".
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He also claimed there were 500 supporters of Robinson in Norwich but they were afraid to go out in public in case they were labelled "racists".
The former manager of Hingham Athletic FC is also close to the former UKIP leader Gerard Batten who appointed Robinson as a "special political advisor" last year. That prompted eight UKIP MEPs to quit the party, including former leader Nigel Farage.
Mr Farage accused UKIP of turning a blind eye to extremism and said the association with Robinson brought "scuffles" and "violence" to the party.
But Mr Saffer said there would be no violence at today's rally and said Robinson's supporters would go home peacefully after the court hearing.
In February Mr Saffer also appeared in Kent with a group called South East Coastal Defence which said it was patrolling the coast for illegal migrants.
On its website it uses an image of a crossed sword over a red shield, and a campaign group accused the volunteers of being "dangerously close to vigilantism".
In an interview in June the founder of South East Coastal Defence, Elaine Renton, claimed Kent was being "invaded 24/7" by illegal migrants.
Mr Saffer said he had nothing to do with the group anymore but added they helped migrants by giving them food and water and waiting for authorities to arrive. "I felt sorry for them," he said.
He then added the group's job was to stop the migrants going into towns.
Mr Saffer said he no longer had anything to do with boxing in Norwich.
-Opinion: We say...
The hypocrisy of Tommy Robinson would be laughable if it wasn't so horrid.
The anti-Islamic speaker rails against the "mainstream media" and claims his free speech is under attack, while taking full advantage of the freedoms this country offers.
He freely holds rallies after his court appearances, which are heavily covered by the same media he insults, while accusing the "establishment" of trying to shut him up.
Today he is likely to be jailed for failing to follow the laws of this country.
His reckless filming of defendants in a child abuse case almost led to the jury being discharged.
He put in jeopardy victims' pursuit of justice against their abusers, yet claims to be sticking up for abuse victims.
He wants to present a respectable image away from his racist background, yet was filmed earlier this year claiming he could buy drugs in any country in the world and using a racist slur. He later said the video was drunken "banter".
Some may say we should ignore Robinson, Saffer and their ilk and not give them any coverage, but we think our readers can make up their own minds.
Mr Saffer is well-known on the Norwich boxing scene and makes no secret of his past association with far-right group the English Defence League (EDL).
He claims he left the group, with Robinson, because it was infiltrated by racist extremists.
Yet some of the rhetoric now spouted by Robinson and his supporters is little better than what the EDL stood for.
-This article was updated on July 16 with additional comments from Mr Saffer. In those comments Mr Saffer said he provided protection for Robinson along with other volunteers but denied being a "bodyguard" for him.