Football supporters have given a mixed reaction to a move by the game’s governing body to brand the word “Yid” offensive and warn that fans using the term could be liable to criminal charges.
In a statement issued this week, the Football Association said it believed the word “is likely to be considered offensive by the reasonable observer” and “inappropriate in a football setting”.
FA general secretary Alex Horne said that “use of the term in a public setting could amount to a criminal offence, and leave those fans liable to prosecution and potentially a lengthy football banning order.”
The organisation, which oversees football in England, admitted that “language is a complex issue,” and that in some cases, “use of the term is a ‘badge of honour’ and is not intended to be offensive”.
Some supporters of Tottenham Hotspur, a club with a large Jewish fan-base, refer to themselves as the “Yid army”.
However, historically, the term has been used a form of antisemitic abuse.
The FA concluded that “for the betterment of the game, rules on acceptable behaviour and language need to be simple, understandable and applicable to all people at all levels of the game.”
The move was welcomed by Jewish communal groups. Board of Deputies vice president Jonathan Arkush said: “We support the FA’s stance in defining the Y-word as an offensive term and we hope that once and for all its use will die out.”
The Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitism in Britain, said it was “pleased to see the FA taking steps to address antisemitism specifically”.
Ordinary football fans were less convinced. Life-long Tottenham fan Darren Conway, 39, approved of the FA’s stance. “I think it is correct. I don’t use the term; I don’t like it. I think it’s derogatory. I don’t chant it myself, and I don’t let my kids chant it.”
But Mr Conway, a retail manager, foresaw difficulties in implementing a ban. “I’d like to know how they’ll enforce it if hundreds or thousands are singing it,” he said.
Pip Moss, a 23-year-old Spurs supporter from north-west London, believed the FA had got it wrong. “A blanket ban leaves no room for context and the situation,” he said. “Such a harsh measure is likely to catch out lots of innocent fans who both meant, and caused, no offence at all.”
The criticism was rejected by the man who made a film endorsing the FA’s postion. Ivor Baddiel, together with his brother, David, co-wrote the film, The Y-Word, for the FA in 2011.
He said this week: “It’s pretty clear that use of the word ‘Yid’ is a bad thing, and that the FA is trying to stop it. The process is moving in the right direction.”
He added use of the word by Spurs fans had had a negative effect. “All it’s done is encourage Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham fans to call them by that word. If Tottenham fans didn’t call themselves that, other fans wouldn’t call them that either.
“The Y-word causes offence to many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, however it is intended, and its continued use by antisemites outside football mean that it has no place in football grounds or anywhere else.”