Football’s racist ills are debated

Top football writers and a lawyer engaged in a spirited argument this week over efforts to criminalise the term, “Yid”, and the police’s record in tackling antisemitism in the game.

Sports journalist of the year, the Guardian’s David Conn, and the Sunday Mirror’s Anthony Clavane, were panel members at a debate at the National Football Museum in Manchester, held by Manchester’s Jewish Museum and the charity Kick It Out on Tuesday.

Audience member and lawyer Melanie Cooke, who represented three Spurs fans who had charges against them for chanting “Yid” dropped by the CPS last month, said her clients had “suffered like criminals”. She also argued that the campaign to criminalise the Y-word was misguided.

In response, Anthony Clavane praised Kick It Out’s Y-Word campaign for ending “a conspiracy of silence”.

David Conn said the Y-Word issue had been “a diversion” in the fight against real antisemitism and challenged an FA official in the audience directly: “When did we hear of Chelsea or West Ham fans being prosecuted for making hissing noises, and singing about Adolf Hitler or gas chambers?”

Panellist Alex Goldberg, chair of the FA’s Football and Faith Group, was angry that Nicholas Anelka claimed ignorance about the antisemitic overtones of his Quenelle gesture could be accepted.

“In France if you don’t know what a Quenelle is, you don’t read the daily newspapers. If you know who Dieudonné is you know his views,” said Mr Goldberg.

He urged the police, the FA and politicians to conduct a “proactive campaign” against football antisemitism, and criticised David Cameron for merely acknowledging the issue at a meeting for “60 seconds with any other racism thrown in for good measure”.

Fellow panellist and Spurs shareholder Ivan Cohen called on the authorities to tackle the “well-known antisemitic hard core” among West Ham, Chelsea and Millwall fans.

“The idea that [Spurs fans chanting “Yid”] encourages antisemitism is the same argument that women who dress provocatively are asking to be raped. I don’t hold with either of them,” said Mr Cohen.

The debate was chaired by Kick It Out’s director Roisin Wood.

Last updated: 7:45pm, April 10 2014