Date:28th November 2012 at 2:21pm
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Over the past few months the spectre of racism has cast its ugly shadow across the world of football taking us back to the peripheries of those dark ages in the game where bananas on the pitch and monkey chants were almost the norm.

As the John Terry saga, finally drew to a close it was a matter of days rather than weeks before we had another incident that would seemingly make even the most ardent UKIP voting Daily Mail reader blush. Mark Clattenburg, a man entrusted with officiating at one of the biggest games of the season was accused of treating one of the players he was meant to be refereeing with the sort of disdain normally reserved for rodents or hated enemies. As if the case of Chelsea vs Clattenburg wasn’t bad enough, it was followed a mere 72 hours later, with the pictures of a fan allegedly doing a monkey gesture to England international Danny Welbeck, for no apparent reason- not that idiocy requires one.

Before, during and after these brace of possibly contemptuous occurrences Spurs fans chanted a word that to them is as much a part of their history as “bunch of bouncing Busby babes” is to us Reds. The “Y-word” -I’m sorry, but no, we’ve reached a new level of absurdity if we’re going to call it that. The term “Yid Army” has been used by Spurs fans for decades and isn’t a slur aimed at Jewish people it’s a reference to Tottenham fans nickname. Peter Herbert however feels this is cause for prosecution telling the Daily Mail- that last bastion of liberal thinking-

‘If neither Tottenham FC nor the FA are willing to take a stand then SBL will report the matter to the Metropolitan Police Service for investigation and, if necessary, prosecution.

‘The report will be made if this behaviour does not cease by 20 November. We will have monitors in attendance to observe what occurs.’

Tottenham swiftly responded with a statement noting:

“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 ie if it is used with the deliberate intention to cause offence. This has been the basis of prosecutions of fans of other teams to date.

“Our fans adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term to others to cause any offence, they use it as a chant amongst themselves.”

End of the matter there then? Well no not for Herbert who declared Spurs “just don’t get it.” A somewhat poor response to an intricate and emotive debate. Even the MET weighed in telling Spurs fans they wouldn’t be prosecuted for chanting “Yid Army” but this did nothing to placate the determined -some would argue over-zealous Herbert who planned a meeting with police stating: ‘We are prepared to make an official complaint if we feel action is not being taken.’

So despite the police, Spurs and the fans themselves both in the ground and via various forums and social media, saying the chanting is ok, Herbert refuses to budge and is determined it seems to have his pound of flesh.

We then move on to the Clattenburg case, the allegation against the referee is arguably what propelled Herbert into the limelight when his organisation The Society of Black Lawyers reported the incident to the police, based on media reports. No evidence or witness statements, no it was simply ‘media reports’ that led to the SBL getting involved. What happened the police didn’t pursue the case  “because no victims had come forward”.

More tellingly the FA found Clattenburg had done nothing wrong and even Chelsea admitted -sort of- they were wrong to publicly announce their allegations towards the official. How does Herbert respond after playing his part in dragging an innocent man’s name through the racist mud?

Does he have any regrets? No. He blames it all on a massive conspiracy claiming: “It would appear that there is a cosy little agreement between Chelsea FC and the FA not to report these matters to the Metropolitan police but to have them dealt with solely by the FA.”

Nothing to do with there being no real evidence of anything untoward, no it’s the sniper on the grassy knoll we need to be looking for….

Herbert has recently waded into the West Ham fans vile chanting towards Spurs debate, by claiming in the Guardian when it comes to racist chanting:

“Those words are mere rhetoric unless the response of Uefa and other bodies to such systematic abuse is to halt the match, identify the perpetrators and, if it continues, to abandon the match and award the game to the opposing team. Nothing less than a serious deterrent effect will stop clubs and fans allowing the agenda to be set by a small group of racists.”

Peter Herbert is a barrister and therefore an educated man, but doesn’t this seem a tad contradictory? Stopping a game and awarding it to the opposition because of racist chanting IS “allowing the agenda to be set by a small group of racists” not the opposite. It seems Herbert is completely confused as to what point he’s even making anymore. Can you imagine if the Champions League was decided by a few  fans being racist? It would be a sad day for football.

The worst part is yet to come, Herbert notes: The link between the appalling incidents in Rome and the “Y” word chanting is obvious. The chanting of the word simply legitimises antisemitic abuse by other fans. 

As though Spurs fans have brought the attacks they suffered in Italy on themselves by chanting Yid Army- I’m only glad I’m not a Spurs fan right now, because I’d be absolutely fuming at that insinuation.

Herbert has in a matter of weeks, become one of the most famous men in football, giving his opinion via print and media almost daily. He’s also upset nearly everyone in the game, including those he’s trying to help. FA chief David Bernstein has labelled Herbert’s comments “ill-informed and unhelpful”, while PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle noted: “It is ill-advised for Mr Herbert to make accusations of collusions and cover-ups.”

“It is unwelcome.”

I’m all for tackling racism and understand there is a problem, from the top to the grass roots level. I recently interviewed a manager from a Manchester Sunday league junior side, who told me he’d reported the same club for racially abusing his players three seasons in a row and nothing had been done. This is unacceptable and more action is needed, but in the right way. When it comes to fans at grounds, why not try working with supporters clubs and even fanzines and forums, making it so anyone heard being racist is made to feel as idiotic as they are and fellow fans report them.

I’ve experienced racism all my life, I even heard it from teammates in my younger days, comments like ” I hate playing against these black teams, they stink ,oh  no offence Jay mate.” I learned the right way to combat it was through education, enlightenment and understanding not just ridiculous accusations and punitive measures. I learned it the hard way, perhaps Herbert will one day too.

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