Jewish football fans have welcomed Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to ask supporters if the club should continue to be associated with the racist slur ‘Yid Army’.
The term is widely used by Spurs fans in reference to the club’s Jewish roots, but many Jewish football supporters insist it’s offensive and singing it gives rival fans an excuse to use the word abusively.
A spokesperson for Tottenham Hotspur told Jewish News: “We recognise this is a complex issue and the appropriateness of its use should always be assessed. We surveyed fans’ use of the term in 2013 and will now conduct a further fan consultation prior to the new season.
“It is important that there’s a focus and a clampdown on the real evil that is antisemitism and that our fans’ use of the Y-word is never cited as an excuse for unacceptable behaviour. There is no excuse. Our fans – Jewish and gentile – have never used the Y-word in an offensive manner. They use it as a form of self-identification having adopted it to deflect antisemitic abuse.”
Jewish football fans are sharply divided on the new consultation. Mike Leigh from the Spurs Show Podcast said he welcomed any consultation but “can’t see how anything is going to change”.
He added the club “should be applauded for the ongoing dialogue” but said most fans would opt to continue using the controversial phrase.
“I don’t think there has been a definitive vote on the matter. If there were I guess around 85 percent of fans would be in favour of continuing the phrase in a positive manner and about 15 percent against. The issue has been all about context. Fans chant it in a celebratory way while rival fans use it in a derogatory way.”
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Asked if he thought other fans would stop using the term abusively if Spurs fans stopped singing it, Leigh said: “That’s the million
dollar question and one always levelled at Spurs fans from pressure groups who want the term banned. Other clubs should get their houses in order before pointing the finger.”
He added: “British Jewry has far bigger things to worry about at the moment, like the rise of the far-left and far-right, than the use of
a very old word chanted by football fans in a proud and celebratory
way. It’s the least of our problems at the moment.”
Among the “other clubs” Leigh referred to is Chelsea, whose fans have a history of chanting abuse. Chelsea fan Ivor Baddiel welcomed the
consultation, “but without seeing what questions will be asked, it’s hard to know how effective it will be”.
He said: “I’d like to see Spurs properly get to grips with the Y-word issue and ask questions that really drill down in to the issue and make Spurs fans think about it.
“If it simply asks whether they think it is OK for Spurs fans to use the Y-word, the answer will be a foregone conclusion.”
He added: “In an ideal world, the consultation would be run by independent psychologists who can avoid bias, but I doubt that will be the case.”
Asked if anything had changed since Spurs’ last consultation in 2013, he said: “I would hope there is more awareness of the issues surrounding
the Y-word, and they have started to think about its use, rather than a blind ‘we’ll chant what we want’ type attitude.”