David Cameron has found himself at the centre of a race row over comments made in support of Spurs Fans and their right to chant the word “Yid.”
On Wednesday, The Football Association outlawed the use of the term at Football matches and on terraces calling it “derogatory and offensive.” Its use could now result in a lifetime match band and lead to criminal charges.
The term, historically linked to the club and adopted by Spurs fans has been a continued source of contention between football goers and campaigners. Spurs maintain the term is a part of the club’s identity and that chanting it isn’t racist but an empowering way to own the term against racist abuse.
Cameron corroborated this view, speaking out in defence of fans. “You have to think of the mens rea. There’s a difference between Spurs fans self-describing themselves as Yids and someone calling someone a Yid as an insult,” Cameron Said. “You have to be motivated by hate. Hate speech should be prosecuted – but only when it’s motivated by hate.”
Cameron has waded into this debate with an absolute proclamation that these chants are free from hate and therefore cannot be classed as racism. Debate over in the PM’s eyes. But what his ignorant comments fail to consider is the well-publicised anti-Semitic abusive attacks that have plagued White Hart Lane and followed Spurs supporters abroad in Rome and Lyon. West Ham fans making hissing sounds and mocking the holocaust is the kind of horrendous racism that has overshadowed the club and the sport.
Whilst Spurs fans maintain the chants are an innocent call to arms, you can’t ignore the derogatory roots of the word that are still exploited by away fans. Cameron’s comments betray a very naive belief that this is an issue isolated issue, no bigger than the club itself. Although, The Yid Army may have been adopted by Tottenham fans to combat racism, sanctioning the use of the word for one team only is lunacy. The Y word would never be acceptable outside of the football sphere so why is it inside? This is a logical conclusion to make and one the FA has arrived at via their ban. And yet in a cheap bid to remain onside with fans, Cameron has stomped all over efforts to rid the sport of victimisation and inequality.
After the shocking anti-Semitic attacks suffered by fans last year, the FA released a statement expressing a commitment to “encouraging a positive and safe environment for all supporters.” This is a commitment they have fulfilled a year on by finally banning the term from football altogether. But the FA’s decision is just at the head of a whole body of organisations campaigning for equality and inclusion in sport.
And yet Cameron’s comments have threatened to halt this progress. Ivor Baddiel maker of the film The Y Word, branded the PM’s comments “utterly ridiculous.” Cameron deserves the backlash he faces at the centre of this race row for his ill consider comments. Not only has he missed the chance to rid football of crippling racism but he has stomped upon the valuable work of charitable organisations working towards this aim. Instead, he chose to admonish responsibility for an issue that now will continue to overshadow football.