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.
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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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- Sheffield United v Arsenal; the line up; injuries and the zero spend technique
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- Wild rumours are undermining Arsenal day by day. But who is responsible?