Spurs fans, beware. Partaking in your regular chants at White Hart Lane could now land you in court and lead to a lengthy ban from attending football matches.
The Football Association have announced that fans who use the word ‘yid’ will face criminal charges after publishing new guidelines on the controversial term.
On the face of it, what they are doing is correct. Yid is used as a racist insult and continues to offend certain sections of the Jewish community. A 2011 campaign titled the ‘Y-Word’ featuring Gary Lineker, Frank Lampard and Ledley King raised the issue, and made those previously unaware that the term is derogatory.
The problem is that the vast majority of Spurs fans do not use yid as a racist term but as a call-to-arms.
If you have attended any match at White Hart Lane you will be familiar with the chant ‘Yid Army’ – used by Tottenham fans to encourage their side. Jermain Defoe is classified as a yid; he is not Jewish. It is a term of identity and is not intended to be racist or offensive.
Now, two years on from the ‘Y-Word’ campaign, the FA has stumbled back onto the issue without fully considering what they’re trying to achieve. Prosecuting fans for chants aimed at their own team seems like a questionable approach when there are other offensive chants often heard on the terrace which carry far more malice.
It’s in the away end of White Hart Lane where the FA should perhaps first take action. Last season a section of West Ham fans chanted about Adolf Hitler and were heard hissing. Two fans were arrested, and one was given a lifetime ban by West Ham, but no action was taken by the FA.
Three days earlier Spurs had visited Lazio and had a series of anti-Semitic vitriol aimed their way. Chelsea fans, too, have been known for such chants – most recently aimed at Yossi Benayoun.
If Spurs fans stopped using the chants then perhaps it would halt the abuse they sometimes receive, but it seems like the FA are approaching this from the wrong angle. In an ideal world yid would have never become a Tottenham defence mechanism, but it became a symbol to deflect the goading they received as no action was taken against those abusing them.
That’s not to say the word should be used. Just because the meaning of a word is changed, doesn’t mean it still can’t carry offense. But how are the FA meant to police it when the vast majority of fans who chant it only do so with the intention of lifting their team?
Tottenham fans will not stop singing it, whatever the FA think. It is engrained in their club and it’s unlikely supporters are going to let the suits in Wembley tell them what to do.
People may disagree with it. But should the national governing body have the power to dictate what people say? Is this not akin to a Big Brother state?
If the FA take the issue as seriously as they say, by the time Aston Villa visit the Lane on the final day of the season the visiting fans could outnumber the home support.
It’s a complex issue – but it’s one that should be debated by the wider football community before the FA march in and impose their laws on everyone.
Yes, it would probably be for the best if Spurs stopped chanting ‘Yid Army’. But threatening a club to drop a word it’s adopted for decades instead of trying to solve it amicably is downright foolish.
Ben Snowball (@BenSnowball)