Image source: Sky Sports

Tottenham Hotspur fans ignored pleas from the club to stop chanting the Y-word within minutes of a 2-0 home defeat to Wolves on Sunday in the Premier League.

The chant was repeatedly heard inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after a statement from the club last Thursday stating “it was time to move on” from fans using the Y-word and associating the term with the club.

Action Against Discrimination chairman Jonathan Metliss was not surprised by the chanting but slammed the deplorable and unacceptable behaviour.

“The more you tell someone not to do something the more they will do it, especially in Tottenham’s case where results continue to decline,” he lamented.”

Metliss called on Tottenham to issue a fresh statement disassociating themselves from the chanting. He added, “More drastic action would be Tottenham players walking off the pitch with the support of the referee and sponsors withdrawing their custom as with West Ham following the redcent furore over Kurt Zouma.” 

He continued, “Hopefully, the tide is turning and we will see the end of this noxious and odious chanting before too long. But would players ever leave the field, as AJAX players did in a game against Feyenoord? Tottenham has a big role to play which they should grasp. The sports press appears to be onside but AAD will continue its pressure as necessary and appropriate.”

Chants from a large section of the crowd included “Thing I love most is being Y**” followed by “We’ll sing what we want” and a rendition of ‘Y** Army’.

Tottenham late last week attempted to move on from “Y-word” chants following a review of the much-publicised term among its fanbase. 

The club has launched a WhY Word online hub with dedicated content appearing in home matchday programmes from the Wolves clash. The club is asking fans to re-assess its use of the term.

Tottenham are providing historical context as to why it can cause offence, particularly for younger members who, the clubs’ research suggests are less aware of the word’s origins. 

“We are living in times of heightened awareness of cultural appropriation and sensitivities,” noted a club statement last Thursday. “It is therefore crucial to the values of our Club and our fans that we are even more mindful of the controversial nature of this term. 

“Our supporters’ use of the Y-word was initially taken as a positive step to deflect antisemitic abuse that they were subjected to at matches more than 40 years ago from opposition fans, who faced no sanctions for their actions.

“As a club, we always strive to create a welcoming environment that embraces all our fans so that every one of our supporters can feel included in the matchday experience. It is clear the use of this term does not always make this possible, regardless of context and intention, and that there is a growing desire and acknowledgment from supporters that the Y-word should be used less or stop being used altogether. We recognise how these members of our fanbase feel and we also believe it is time to move on from associating this term with our club.”

The club refrains from engaging social media handles or a bio that contains the Y-word and do not permit it being printed on shirts in any official retail outlets or used in any official club context. 

Tottenham is clear on its views regarding growing antisemitism in football.

“Antisemitism remains a serious issue in football and more needs to be done to combat it,” the club said in a statement. “Antisemitic abuse must be given the same zero tolerance that other forms of discriminatory behaviour receive. It should not be left to a minority in football to address and lead on this.”

The Board of Deputies and World Jewish Congress have asked Tottenham to address the use of the term by supporters. The Board welcomed Tottenham’s review and findings

Amanda Bowman of the BoD said, “We share the club’s feeling of discomfort about its use by Spurs supporters, regardless of their motivation. We hope that their WhY Word hub will encourage fans to learn more about how it can cause offence so that in future the term will be consigned to the history books.”

AAD applauded Tottenham’s statement and condemnation of anti-Semitism in football.

“After years of campaigning against the use of this word as being both offensive and racist in itself and provoking and acting as a catalyst for anti-Semitic responses we are delighted to see our position has been vindicated and that the whole issue is being taken seriously,” commented Metliss. “These abhorrent chants will eventually be banned as being obscene and inciting and provoking racial hatred and anti-Semitic behaviour.” He added, “The Tottenham statement is a commendable development, but it is only one stage in the process which, hopefully, will lead to the banning of the Y-Word and any similar chant.”

Kick It Out Antisemitism Ambassador Lord Jon Mann congratulated Tottenham.

“Those who use the Y-word as a Spurts linked identifier on social media are overwhelmingly not Jewish, nor ever advocate any positives about Jewish life,” he noted. “There are more people using the Y-word identifier who repeat antisemitic tropes, than those who identify as being Jewish.”

He added, “I trust other clubs will play their part in eradicating its use throughout football.”

The adoption of the Y-word by fans in the late 1970’s was a positive response to a lack of action taken by others around the issue.  But the club has always recognised the Y-word being a complex issue and appropriateness of its use should regularly be assessed. 

A first stage of consultation with fans took place in 2019 with over 23,000 responses as 94% acknowleded the Y-word may be considered a racist term against a Jewish person. 

Following a pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tottenham undertook a second phase of the consultation by an experienced moderator. 

Virtual supporter focus groups comprise a cross section of fans. Key findings included members of the fanbase feeling uncomfortable with the Y-word’s continued use at matches and supporters being prepared to defend their position on why they use the term.