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Tottenham, anti-Semitism, the FA, the League, the police, and the fans

By Tony Attwood

In 2008 Hampshire police announced the investigating of racial and homophobic abuse directed by Tottenham fans towards Sol Campbell at a Portsmouth v Tottenham game.

The police said they would report the matter to the Football Association because it was not possible to make arrests due to the sheer numbers chanting.

The chant, which has been printed in the Guardian, but which I really do find too disgusting and appalling to reprint (and believe me I am not normally squeamish in any regard) claims that the player has contracted aids through his sexual activities, and that the singers are glad he is about to die.

A few arrests were made later following photo identification of a handful of fans, but Tottenham fans have continued with the song and the chants without any action being taken against them at all.  The footage of the game is still available, and most of those in the enclosure would have bought their tickets through Tottenham H itself, and therefore the matter of matching the individuals shown singing on film against those on the files of the club is not difficult.

This raises the issue of whether the police assertion that they could take no action because everyone was doing it, is valid.  I am not sure such statements are heard when we debate police action regarding political demonstrations where dealing with large numbers of people does not seem to be a problem for them.  They have their tactics, and they execute them.

Further, it also raises the point that if nearly everyone was doing it, as the police report suggested, why then did the FA do nothing to ban Tottenham from taking these thoroughly odious people to games.  A ban on away support for Tottenham matches would hurt the decent minority of their travelling fans – and that is regrettable, but the majority who seem to enjoy this sort of thing, would also be hurt, and that would be helpful, in my view.

I bring this up now because the news has just been released that the Premier League football clubs have promised to tackle the problem of anti-Semitism in their grounds.  I have no problem at all with this, and although a follower of philosophies rather than faiths I am indeed concerned at the anti-Semitic chants that are still heard.  But I do still wonder why that dreadful incident at Portsmouth could be so readily let go.

Chelsea are planning to show a film, which features the likes of Frank Lampard and Ledley King, before their game against the Tiny Totts, and Kick It Out is opening up the debate on the word “yid”.

Words, as we all know, change their meanings over time, and words that were once ok, are now not, and the reverse is also true.   In my non-football hobby of jiving, I find myself dancing to records which have the word “fuck” in the lyrics – something that would have been unthinkable in mainstream songs 30 years ago.  Words change, meanings change.

Yid too has changed, not least because some Tiny Tott fans have adopted it as their own through the phrase “Yid Army”.   But in the new film we have the phrase “The Y-Word”, which is defined as unacceptable.

I do not use the word Yid outside this discussion, either for a person of Jewish descent or belief, or for a Tottenham supporter, and I personally don’t like it.  But I wonder why there is so much emphasis being placed on this word when so little has been done about the gross, appalling, disgusting and utterly offensive and totally illegal behaviour of Tottenham supporters at Portsmouth, and indeed elsewhere.

I utterly agree that the song “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz” is disgraceful at every level, and I would support the arrest of, and banning orders on, everyone who joins in or allows it, but the focus on this, while sweeping under the carpet what Tottenham supporters sing against Sol Campbell, seems to me wrong.  It is not that we should debate and take action on one or the other, but rather we should be working to rid football and society of both anti-Semitism and the disgusting homophobia that seems to inhabit Tottenham’s travelling support, and with which neither the football authorities, the police nor Tottenham Hotspur itself will deal.

It is also concerning the way that Tottenham as a club react to this.  Following the suggestion that something should be done about Tottenham supporters calling themselves Yid Army the Tottenham  executive director Donna Cullen said (according to the Guardian) that the initial focus should be on the opposition supporters using anti-Semitic language rather than the club’s own fans who have sought to reclaim it.

“It is unthinkable and wholly unacceptable that, in this day and age, supporters are subjected to anti-Semitic abuse such as hissing to imitate the gas chambers used during the Holocaust in the Second World War,” she said.

“We look forward to an informed and proper debate with Kick It Out, stakeholders and the key authorities to raise greater awareness and put in place the stringent measures needed to stop anti-Semitic abuse in football.”

Well, I’d like to join in the informed debate and say that if Tottenham, the FA and the EPL along with the police had dealt with the Portsmouth and all subsequent anti-Campbell incidents in anything remotely like a serious manner, I might have just a tiny fraction of respect for those organisations.  That they did not do anything beyond make a handful of arrests and a bunch of bleating noises, following the most disgraceful outbreak of homophobic chanting heard at an English football match, speaks volumes about these organisations.   Bickering about whether one should take action against Tottenham fans calling themselves Yid Army is typical of where these people in authority are.

When the enemy is at the gates it is not the time to discuss whether the gates need repainting.

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9 comments to Tottenham, anti-Semitism, the FA, the League, the police, and the fans

  • GOONER80

    Even if you stop someone saying it, you cant stop them thinking it, racism is still around, many people are judged by skin colour, appearance etc .

  • GOONER80

    Even if you stop someone saying it, you cant stop them thinking it, racism is still around, many people are judged by skin colour, appearance etc

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Spot on Tony. One wonders what that lot at the FA actually do. Sit around and write position papers perhaps but they don’t actually do anything, methinks.

  • menace

    There is racism and there is name calling. The name calling that includes yid, scouse, honkey, coon, wog, paki and so on are not any great deal. In fact the term paki means pure and the ignorant take is as abusive without realising it is in fact praise. The racism, sectarianism and bigotry are not so visible and it comes in various guises; refusal to give a job; bookings on the field of play; fines for some charge that suddenly has no evidence when challenged by the provoker, yet are not withdrawn from the provoked (who normally pay without challenge). (Pardew/Wenger; Lennon/McCoist)

    The behaviour of Tottenham fans has been nasty and neither the Club nor the FA have done anything to curb it. The nasty chanting is unacceptable and seems to hide in its volume.

  • paddy

    Let’s be completely honest here. 1. Fans calling themselves yids IS completely different to fans calling others yids. It may be socially problematic, but it is different and its clearly not racist as there is no negative sentiment being expressed about oneself. I know spurs fans (sorry) of Jewish descent who are fine with it, even proud. Others less so. 2. The team with the biggest problem with anti semetism is us, by a long shot and then some. When arsenal fans say yids, they ARE being racist. Any denial of that is stupid at worst or disingenuous at best. I’ll be frank. The idiocy of a large proportion of football fans is constantly annoying to me. The racism of gooners is depressing. I havent been to a north London derby for 3 or 4 years (that one we won 3-1 I think adebayor scored 2 I think). I was surrounded by such filthy disgusting scumbags it filled me with loathing and shame. Two examples: constant references to hitler, and repeatedly shouting yid c*nt at a terrified 5 year old who’s dad had naively brought him in the arsenal end in a spurs shirt. It ruined an otherwise great victory for me and left me feeling dirty. An extreme example perhaps, but let’s be honest, disgusting anti-semetism is totally commonplace at arsenal. It’s rife and we all know it……I think the tone of this article tells me you know it too tony (dare I say that while I agree entirely about the spura.

  • paddy

    Campbell thing are you not trying to deflect attention away from our own unique issues at our club?) And before anyone suggests I just dont understand as some johnny come lately middle class type….wrong…working class background, islington born, on north bank from mid 80’s. Being working class and a football fan is no excuse for being an ignorant racist thug (tony, I’m in no way suggesting you or your article suggest this..big respect for your site). i never Post on sites, but the gooner/yids subject makes me mad!

  • wembley79

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that Arsenal have a greater number of Jewish supporters than Tottenham,ergo it is indeed offensive for them to use the word Yid, in any context.

  • nicolas

    An excellent article on an issue that needs to be addressed.

  • Limestonegunner

    A very good article on an important issue. Several football journalists have recently taken up the issue of abusive chanting, for example the scurrilous abuse toward our manager as recently as our away game at WHL. Has anything serious been done about that, fore example, either. The attention in favor of stopping anti-semitic chanting probably has something to do with the love affair with Spurs for their England B players and English manager in the Champions League for the first time, at least partly.

    Paddy brings up a good issue about our own support. (Though, didn’t Chelsea have a genuine reputation for neo-Nazi style support that was worse even than any of our unsavory inclinations in this direction?) I’d be interested in your response to that, Tony.

    T