Tottenham Hotspur, a global sporting brand with annual turnover approaching half-a-billion pounds, has finally had enough of its reputation being trashed by its own supporters.
The statement that appeared without fuss or fanfare on the football club’s website yesterday, two years after a fans’ survey on the issue, was a full-body tackle on thousands upon thousands of its own supporters who delight in referring to themselves by the anti-Jewish hate slur “Yid”.
The survey’s results were as emphatic as a Glenn Hoddle free kick, with 94 percent of 23,000 supporters accepting the Y-word can be considered a racist term and half wanting it chanted less or banned altogether. Yet despite this clear mandate back in 2019, the club issued a weak, carefully crafted statement, almost begging fans to see sense, saying the findings indicated a “willingness to reconsider the appropriateness of the term”. Now, at last, it’s found the full courage of its convictions.
Last year’s European Super League fiasco reminded football clubs that they antagonise fans at their peril. Challenging supporters’ tribal identity is best avoided unless the status quo is untenable and you’re bang out of all other options. That’s precisely where sorry Spurs now finds itself and why the wording of its statement left no room for doubt: “We will further outline the historical context of the term to explain the offence it can cause and to embrace the times in which we now live to show why it can be considered inappropriate regardless of context.… It’s time to move on from the Y-word.”
The club has tip-toed around this spreading reputational risk for decades, hoping that in woke times the penny would drop for the philosophers in the South Stand who claim to use the word as a ‘badge of honour’ – freeing it from its tragic history on behalf of us downtrodden Jews. Like reclaiming the swastika as a Buddhist symbol of peace, that ship has sailed, been stripped of parts and converted into a floating hotel off the coast of Dubai. No amount of reclamation by deep-thinking Spurs fans will change that.
In truth the word has been shamelessly and deceitfully hijacked as a cheap trigger to goad Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham fans. Everyone who chants it bloody well knows the dark arts they are conjuring and to hell with the Jews, who clean the vile word off synagogues and gravestones.
The scale of the problem is vast. At a recent away match at Leicester City, the entirety of 4,000 travelling Tottenham fans was heard yelling the word. Their team took the knee before kick-off to stand against racism, then they chanted: “We sang it in France and we sang it in Spain, we sang in the sun and we sang in the rain. They tried to stop us but look what we did, because the thing we love most is being a Yid!”
Thursday’s announcement finally puts the club in direct conflict with these rogue stakeholders – the tens of thousands of fans on Facebook groups like Yid Pride, North London Yids and From One Yid to Another. Now, rather than just being quietly ashamed, asking players not to use the word, avoiding it on merchandise and telling stewards ask politely ask fans not to wave their Yid flags, the club has done what it should have two years ago, when it became one of Europe’s premier sports brands in the wake of its first Champions League final and getting the keys to a £1billion stadium. It’s put the ‘Yid Army’ on notice. It’s all over. Bar the shouting.
First published by The Times