West Ham’s anti-Semitic chanting at Spurs shows the FA to be clueless on race
WHEN some West Ham United fans serenaded Spurs fans with songs-designed-to-offend back in November 2012, they hit the mark. Chants included the ridiculous “Adolf Hitler, he’s coming for you”, a not untypical hissing noise meant to simulate the sound of taps in a gas chamber and the answer to the Spurs fans refrain “Can we play you every week?” with “Can we stab you every week?”, that a reference to the Tottenham fans attacked by nutcases in Rome.
Two West Ham fans earned a police caution for anti-Semitic gestures during that match, a 3-1 win for Tottenham. One fan was handed a lifetime ban from West Ham’s ground. The gesture was, allegedly, a Nazi-style salute. That a West Ham fan should ape the people who bombed London’s East End in World War 2, a place where many Hammers fans lived, is so pathetic as to be laughable. You might also have head the West Ham fans chanting “Hitler was a cockney”. But he never did like the area much. (And he was busy blowing Goebbels, pretty Goebbels…)
The FA had heard enough. The Association that banned Liverpool’s Luis Suarez for calling Patrice Evra a “negrito” has announced that from next season, those found guilty of discrimination will face a minimum five-match ban under new FA rules. The FA is tough on racism. And it investigated the Spurs chants.
And after months, said this:
“The FA notes that West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur liaised closely together during the preparations for the game on 25 November 2012 in relation to safety issues with additional emphasis given to offensive/discriminatory language and/or gestures.
“The FA is aware that there were reports after the game, which alleged anti-Semitic chanting by a minority of West Ham United supporters.
“The FA acknowledges the work West Ham United undertook in the immediate aftermath of the match and the ongoing work the club, led by its owners, undertakes to prevent all forms of discrimination and misconduct as well as the regular statements the club makes to supporters about the standards of behaviour expected.
“The FA is also aware of the West Ham United’s re-affirmation that it will continue to take swift and decisive action against any other individual identified to have used offensive language and/or gestures. One of those individuals arrested as part of the police investigation was a West Ham United season ticket holder who has since been given a life ban by the club.
“The FA is also aware that a subsequent police investigation following the game led to a number of arrests of West Ham United supporters.
“The FA notes also that the return fixture between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at the Boleyn Ground on 25 February 2013 passed without major incident. This followed significant efforts by both clubs prior to and at the game, reminding supporters that discriminatory language and/or gestures would not be tolerated.”
It’s up to the club? Odd. Because the FA says on its own website:
Access to football – and progress within it – is available to people from every ethnic group.
We want to ensure people are aware that people from different ethnic backgrounds know how and where to get into football remains on ongoing priority. Rightly, this priority falls to The Football Association, as the game’s governing body in this country.
However, our work to break down barriers is not aimed at players – it is equally directed at potential referees, administrators, coaches, volunteers and spectators.
Ultimately all our race equality work is focused on one ethos: using the positive power of football to create equal opportunities – for everyone and anyone – to enjoy the world’s greatest game.
Our continued aim is to eradicate racism in football by ensuring no barriers exist to anyone enjoying our national game – whatever their ethnic background.
Rory Smith mocks the confused FA:
Is it now FA policy that clubs are in control of punishing their own fans, should they transgress into unacceptable behaviour? Is the FA abdicating its role in adjudicating such cases?
Can your fans now be racist once, so long as they are not racist against the same team again?
It is a laughable logic. So, too, is the police determining that there is evidence to charge fans, but the FA deciding there is no reason for it to become involved. That is the reverse of what applied in the Terry case. It is evidence of an organisation that forges its policy on the fly. That is simply not good enough.
But it is typical of the garbled policing of football.