The Blog

There Are Racist Chelsea Fans - Who Knew?

Chelsea fans on the Paris Metro

No one who regularly attends top flight football in London needs mobile phone footage of a bunch of idiots singing on the Paris Metro to tell them that racism is rife among certain sections of Chelsea's support. It's true that you can find racists at every club - or more or less anywhere if you look hard enough - but there is a particular keenness among Chelsea fans to be publicly identified with fascism as was so pithily demonstrated in the lyric of their Parisian chant: we're racist and that's the way we like it.

At Tottenham there hasn't been any racist chanting for decades. When I first visited White Hart Lane in the seventies there were bovver boys selling the National Front newspaper outside White Hart Lane, but there has been nothing similar since. Part of the reason is that the Spurs fans long ago embraced the association with the Jewish community that rivals use as a basis for their abuse. I remember going to a game at the turn of the eighties and a fellow Spurs fan shouting 'yiddo' at me on the tube. After the initial shock, the brilliant penny dropped. Spurs fans had embraced the term 'yiddo' thus neutralising it as a weapon. The 'Yid Army' was born.

Years later the confused comedian David Baddiel - a Chelsea fan - spectacularly missed the point by accusing Tottenham supporters themselves of racism for appropriating the term, failing to recognise that they were demonstrating solidarity with the Jews of North London. Far from being humiliated, they were declaring themselves proud.

Of course it didn't mean the end of the abuse. Among the songs we have heard over the years have been 'I never felt more like gassing a jew...' to the tune of Singing The Blues, 'Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz' to the Tune of Ossie's Dream and 'Adolf Hitler, he's coming for you' to the tune of I Wanna Go Home. I have even heard the helpful addition of hissing noises to represent the gas seeping into the Nazi chambers.

It shouldn't need saying that not every Chelsea fan is a hate-filled bigot. Apart from the doubtless thousands of non-racists among the rank and file it's notable that the owner, Roman Abrahamovich, is Jewish and the club's late life president, Sir Richard Attenborough, was the very epitome of the Labour Lovey. Nor do Chelsea have a monopoly of openly racist fans in London. Following the Paris incident fans of West Ham United were captured banging out the jew-hating tunes on their way to a game at Tottenham last weekend and Millwall have certainly had their moments.

Lord Herman Ouseley, the Chairman of the Kick It Out campaign has called for the police to 'swamp' Wembley on Sunday when Chelsea face Tottenham in the Capitol One cup final to clamp down on the anti-semitic chanting. He has also pointed out that following the Paris incident, the silence from the Premier League, The Football League, the PFA and the LMA has been deafening. Plus ca change.

Theo Delaney is a guest on this week's Spurs Show podcast