THE BLOG

'It's Wrong To Put Blame On Spurs Fans': Tottenham Hotspur's Y-Word Controversy

17/09/2013 12:38 BST | Updated 15/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Daniel Wynne is a governor of a united synagogue primary school in North London, he has visited both Auschwitz and Anne Frank House and his family fled the Nazis to come to England.

He's also a lifelong Spurs fan, whose decision to sing along with "anti-Semitic" when at White Hart Lane could land him with a criminal charge; if the FA get their way.

The FA announced that Tottenham fans using the Y-word, Yid, could face prosecution last week.

The decision came after months of debate around the use of the term, which is used by Spurs fans in reference to the clubs Jewish heritage; following a high-profile campaign led by comedian and Chelsea fan David Baddiel.

For Mr Wynne who is a senior member of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, the use of the Y-word by Spurs fans is about empowerment; a reaction against the racist chants made by rival supporters in the 1970s and beyond.

"The use of the term goes back to the fact that it was used against us by fans of clubs like Chelsea and West Ham," he explained.

"I will always defend Spurs fans when they use it; but only in the context of when they use it inside a football ground.

"Of course, it wouldn't be right for people to come up to me in the street and use the word, but when it's used inside the ground it's a term of endearment. There's no malice. It's just fans trying to get behind their team. And there's no intention to cause offence."

For the FA, whether Spurs fans intend to cause offence or not when using the term is beside the point; with their statement reading: "use of the term 'Yid' is likely to be considered offensive by the reasonable observer."

This view is echoed by Peter Herbert, Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, a group which has led calls for Spurs fans using the Y-word to be prosecuted.

"There's a distinction and a distinction of degree, but we've had a lot of Jewish fans who phoned us and said that when the chant goes out from Tottenham it legitimises what other people do," he argued.

"It is inexcusable for the vast majority of Tottenham fans who are gentile to use the word."

Indeed, for all the talk of Spurs being a "Jewish club" with a long history of Jewish ownership the vast majority of Tottenham supporters are actually non-Jews.

A fact which, as Joanne Rosenthal, curator of the upcoming London Jewish Museum exhibition 'Four Four Jew: Football, Fans and Faith', acknowledges, makes a lot of Jewish people uncomfortable.

"It's an issue that massively charged. I went to White Hart Lane with Jewish Tottenham fans and I heard all the chanting and I was amazed that it still happens. It's odd because the word is so divorced from its original meaning, and the majority of people use it without ever thinking that it means 'Jew'," she said. "Personally it didn't make me feel uncomfortable, but I can see why it would."

As the Y-word became a hot topic last season, a number of incidents of anti-Semitic abuse aimed at Tottenham fans were reported in the press.

Ashley Mills, a 25-year-old Tottenham fan, was severely injured as he and 10 other Spurs fans were attacked before a Europa League game against Lazio in Rome; with witnesses reporting that the Italian perpetrators had shouted "Jews" at the Tottenham supporters before the violence took place.

Soon after this incident, a section of West Ham supporters aimed anti-Semitic abuse at Tottenham fans during their sides 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane last season.

Regardless of whether the majority of Tottenham fans are Jews or not there is clearly a firm association between the club and the Jewish faith.

For Anthony Clavane, author of the book 'Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here?' which explores Jewish involvement in British football in the 20th century, "it's wrong to put the blame on Spurs fans. The real blame should be aimed at the opposition fans who use it."

"I would like to persuade the Spurs fans to move on. But I can fully understand why they adopted it in the first place," he said.

Whatever the position of the FA, Tottenham Hotspur supporters remain defiant. Chants of "Yid army" and "we'll sing what we want" reverberated around White Hart Lane during the sides 2-0 win over Norwich on Saturday.

The club's Supporters Trust, meanwhile, have stated that the FA should focus on opposition fans using the term to "slur the Jewish community"; insisting that Spurs fans do not use the Y-word in a malicious way.