Tottenham Hotspur have been criticised for anti-Semitic chants at White Hart Lane in a statement issued by the Society of Black Lawyers which sets out their 10-point plan to tackle racism in football. The society made a complaint to the police after the allegations of racism were made by Chelsea players against the referee, Mark Clattenburg, two weeks ago following their defeat by Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. It was the Chairman of the Society, Peter Herbert, who reported the matter obliging the police to start an investigation into the allegations.
The Society are trying to set up a Black Players’ Association in football as a breakaway from the Professional Footballers’ Association which many black players feel has not acted strongly enough on their behalf to tackle racism in the sport. Many are dissatisfied also with the punishments which were handed out by the football authorities in the recent high profile cases involving John Terry and Luis Suarez.
In the statement issued on 7th November, Herbert was also critical of the anti-Semitic chants at White Hart Lane and accuses the Football Association and Tottenham of not taking action to address the issue. He claims to have had discussions with members of the Jewish community and has threatened to make a complaint to the police if steps are not taken by the club and authorities by 20th November.
Tottenham supporters refer to themselves as ‘Yid” and the ‘Yid-Army’ as an acknowledgement of the club’s Jewish connections and as a way of deflecting anti-Semitic abuse aimed at them by visiting supporters. The fans will chant it from the stands and the term is also seen on some supporters’ flags and banners. Sections of the Chelsea, West Ham United and Everton fans are regularly involved in hissing to simulate the noise of gas chambers during matches against Tottenham.
Tottenham Hotspur issued a statement in response to the claims,
“The club does not tolerate any form of racist or abusive chanting. Our guiding principle in respect of the ‘Y-word’ is based on the point of law itself – the distinguishing factor is the intent with which it is used i.e. if it is used with the deliberate intention to cause offence.”
Herbert, however, is critical of Tottenham’s attempts to justify the supporters’ actions saying they were ‘insulting people’s intelligence’ and ‘wouldn’t make sense to a six-year-old’. He says that his group will have monitors present at matches and if action is not taken against it, they will issue a formal complaint to the police.
Herbert does not say if he intends to take action against the supporters of clubs who aim anti-Semitic abuse at the Tottenham fans.
This season Tottenham players have been the subject of racist abuse in two separate incidents. Last month, Lazio were fined by UEFA for racist chanting by their supporters directed at Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe and Andros Townsend during the Europa League match at White Hart Lane in September. The Tottenham player, Danny Rose, on loan with Sunderland, was subjected to racial abuse when with the England Undeer-21 team in Serbia last month.
Piara Powar, the Executive Director of the Football Against Racism in Europe organisation, has criticised Herbert for being naive and questioned whether he properly understands football. Herbert was not present at Stamford Bridge when the alleged incidences of racist abuse occurred but read about it in the newspapers prompting him to make his complaint. He is now threatening to act in a similar way against Tottenham over the supporters’ chants.
Tottenham are a football club who have worked very hard to eliminate any form of abusive chants or intolerance by their supporters. They had a major issue after Sol Campbell left the club when his appearance in matches against Tottenham for both Arsenal and Portsmouth brought abuse from some sections of the crowd. Some supporters were charged following abuse directed at Campbell at a match at Portsmouth in 2008. With Campbell’s retirement from football this problem has passed and Tottenham as a club and their supporters on the whole are very tolerant and supporting towards other fans and officials. The first test of this issue will be against NK Maribor in this evening’s Europa League match at White Hart Lane.