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Premier League aim to stamp out toxic-tongued minority

Published: November 27, 2012 | 7:14 am
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Such is the Premier League’s disgust at the toxic-tongued minority on the terraces that it is ramping up the pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue cases of fans’ abusive chants and gestures with greater vigour.

Danny Welbeck - Premier League aim to stamp out toxic-tongued minority on the terraces
Disgrace: a Chelsea fan makes a monkey gesture towards Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck at Stamford Bridge last month Photo: DAVID KLEIN

It is talking to the Home Office about how the CPS can be stronger. It is lobbying Government to tighten legislation, ensuring more of the new contemptibles are brought to proper justice.
The Premier League is protecting its cherished national sport and lucrative global image.
These are ongoing actions as much as a response to recent embarrassments. This season there have already been odious outbursts and shameful sights, hinting at a rising tide of bile rolling across the landscape of English football.
It has oft been stated that we live in angry times, that society’s increasingly adversarial nature pours into football like inebriated gate-crashers spoiling a good party. Yet football has always had a dark undercurrent manifesting itself in grim songs or deeds. If the hooliganism that turned matchday in the Seventies and Eighties into an occasional assault course has ebbed, then verbal violence remains.
Supporters of Tottenham Hotspur, who have a substantial Jewish following, endure chants about Adolf Hitler. A Chelsea fan makes monkey gestures towards Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck. Leeds United fans direct noxious taunts at Dave Jones, the Sheffield Wednesday manager.

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, stoically shrugs off the barbs of Manchester United fans. Robin van Persie took relentless insults from Arsenal fans at Old Trafford.
The most pernicious supporters reveal a willingness to raid an ugly repertoire about knifing, raping and gassing. It defies belief. No wonder the Premier League wants the CPS and Government to be tougher. No wonder Leeds were aggrieved when the magistrates took a relatively lenient line on the fan who ran on the pitch at Hillsborough and punched Chris Kirkland, the Wednesday keeper.
The fear within football is that the statutory authorities are part of the problem, not punishing enough. Meanwhile, West Ham move with commendable force, banning for life the season-ticket holder who made a Nazi salute outside White Hart Lane on Sunday. Good. Football does not want the company of such villains.
Certain supporters’ organisations squirm and squeal over the authorities’ clampdown, even claiming that the magistrates are too hard when those within football feel they are too soft.
Magistrates allow many of those dragged named and shamed before them to return eventually to football grounds, akin to handing the lighter back to the arsonist.
Fortunately, clubs are refusing access to those fans found guilty, banning them for life on the totally understandable basis that the malevolent minority should not impinge the match-day enjoyment of the peaceful majority.
As headlines, timelines, phone-ins and chat-rooms shake with emotions and observations, some perspective needs introducing into a heated debating chamber.
In the context of the millions who attend games in this country, only a few offend. Some of it is localised verbal skirmishing, pertaining to tribalism in London or along the M62.
Yet poison undeniably mixes in with the adrenalin of match-day.
Sociologists will talk of the fury of the 21st century fan, feeling disfranchised from the modern game with its playing and managerial stars earning millions. One official contacted yesterday suggested that a culture of abuse had developed further because of high-profile incidents of intolerance on the pitch, notably involving Luis Suárez and John Terry. If the players can do it, runs the perceived view of the impressionable few, then why not us?
When the economy began slowing down, the anti-racism organisation Kick It Out predicted an increase in bigotry. Mix in jealousy and the pack mentality and a venomous cocktail is served up for 90 minutes.
“They are just cowards who get in a group,’’ reflected Harry Redknapp, who has been targeted by the vile council. “When they are on their own they are probably different people but when they get together it’s filth.’’
Safety in numbers is no safety any more. Individuals are being isolated, highlighted and caught by CCTV, even stewards wearing head-cams. A mood grows within football simply to pick off one or two individuals involved in any mass chants, making an example of them as a warning to others. In the future, those considering making hissing sounds to Spurs fans might desist on self-preservation grounds if not moral.
It is still scary how dim some of these miscreants are or arrogantly dismissive of potential repercussions or are simply having their judgment blurred by alcohol.
Twitter is both a forum for racists preaching intolerance and an area for hunting down assorted perpetrators. The name of the Leeds fan who punched Kirkland circulated swiftly on social media, soon followed by the publication of his mobile phone number.
The photograph of the Chelsea fan doing the monkey taunt was all over Twitter within hours of the final whistle.
Twitter can resemble the wild web at times yet it is also a force for good, for the well-meaning majority to act as cyber-sheriffs and round up the bad guys. It is easier, and safer, to tackle low-life on timelines than in person on the terraces.
“You can go there as a nice guy and the fella in front of you starts [chanting abuse] and what do you do?’’ continued Redknapp. “You have a go at him and the next thing you know he’ll probably turn around and attack you.’’
Stewards and police intervene more. Kick It Out holds a meeting with Spurs this morning to discuss events such as Sunday’s at the Lane.
The Premier League’s argument that this is as much a societal problem is right. The battle against racism begins in schools. Sadly, some fans are beyond redemption. Redknapp suffered abuse from a few Aston Villa supporters sitting near the away dugout at Villa Park when he visited with Portsmouth in 2007. What particularly shocked him was that one of those showering him with invective had his son in attendance. An heirloom of four-letter words and intolerance are passed down from generation to generation.
“We’ve all had plenty of it [abuse] at various times,’’ sighed Redknapp. “It’s happening more and more. We don’t want to get back to what we had in the Seventies – the violence. Now it just seems to be the chanting but it is disgusting.’’
The footballing authorities have had enough and are now tackling the cancer within the game.


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