Tottenham under pressure to clamp down on ‘Yid' nickname as police prepare for Chelsea clash

The World Jewish Congress, Board of Deputies, CST and the Jewish Leadership Council have all called on Spurs to change its stance on the 'Y-word'


Renewed calls for Tottenham Hotspur fans to renounce the word "Yid" have been met with scepticism ahead of the club's match against Chelsea, whose fans have repeatedly used the term in a pejorative way.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC), Board of Deputies, Community Security Trust (CST) and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) have all called on the club to clamp down on fans using the word to describe themselves in match chants.

Chelsea fans have been involved in a series of incidents relating to alleged antisemitic chanting – primarily directed towards Tottenham Hotspur – which has a long association with Jewish communities of North London.

The club itself says it has a “zero-tolerance position” regarding antisemitism, but insist that fans' use of that word has never been “intended to cause offence”.

It added that a re-assessment of the use of "Yid" can only take place "within the context of a total clampdown on unacceptable antisemitism".

Mike Leigh, one of the hosts of the popular Spurs Show podcast, explained that the use of the term by Tottenham fans originated in a desire to reclaim it from rival fans – most notably Chelsea and West Ham supporters – who used it in a derogatory sense.

Mr Leigh, who is Jewish, told the JC: "That’s when the fans started saying ‘Well, if you’re going to call us 'effing yids' then we are the Yids’.

"Knowing that context is important. It’s a very nuanced topic – it’s not black and white. It is antisemitic to chant it in a certain way, if it’s done to cause offence or hurt.

"But, from my perspective, there is a difference in the way the term is used by different sets of supporters, and I think most Spurs fans will share this view."

Labour peer and Tottenham supporter Lord Mendelsohn rubbished the "pointless and thoughtless campaign" to clamp down on Spurs fans using the word, calling for authorities to "address the significant challenges of our time, rather than those matters which garner quick and easy publicity".

He told the JC: "To argue that the objects of abuse – and those who only attach positive connotations to their connection to historic traditions – are the problem is looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

"I hope the club, which has an excellent record and commitment to dealing with these issues, is steadfast.

"I strongly support firm action to deal with the pejorative antisemitic use of the world 'yid' by any football supporter and tackling antisemitism wherever it arises. Chelsea’s action to address this is to be applauded.”

Spurs fans are known to refer to themselves as “Yids” or “the Yid Army”, a tradition which is thought to date back to the 1970s.

Writing in The Times on Monday, columnist and Spurs fan David Aaronovitch argued in favour of the fans' right to reclaim the word, saying it originated in a "gloriously imaginative" reaction to far-right fans of opposing teams.

Mr Aaronovitch, who is also a JC columnist, wrote: "When attempts at prosecuting Spurs fans for using the Y-word failed, context is everything. A word or a phrase is only abuse if you’re using it to abuse.

"Still, it’s an unlovely word and hopefully if rival fans were dissuaded from antisemitism for a period of years, its defiant but non-abusive use would fade into history."

The Telegraph reported on Monday that the police are preparing to issue a “zero-tolerance” warning to Chelsea and Tottenham fans ahead of Tuesday's match at Wembley, the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that it will deploy officers inside the stadium, as well as outside, "as a result of the risk assessment for this particular match".

A Met Police spokesman added: "This is to ensure a proportionate policing plan is in place and instances of criminality are dealt with swiftly and appropriately."

Last week the JC reported that Chelsea will also take the unusual step of bringing their own stewards to the match in response to the recent spate of antisemitic chants.

In a joint statement with the Board of Deputies, WJC chief executive Robert Singer said: “Contrary to the protests of many fans, there is no grey area when it comes to slurs that target a particular religious, racial or ethnic group.

“The word ‘Yid’ has for years been re-appropriated from its original Yiddish to carry a distinctly pejorative and antisemitic message, and its use by fans in the stands, either as a self-designated nickname or as a slogan against rivals must not be tolerated in any way.

“We would also ask Tottenham Hotspur to take a stand against the use of ‘Yid Army’, ‘Yid’ and ‘Yiddos’ by their fans. Such a long overdue action is important to kick antisemitism off the pitch and create a welcoming environment for all.”

A Community Security Trust spokesman described the word as "an antisemitic insult", calling for Spurs fans to "take responsibility for their own actions" – and for the club to "grow up".

Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the JLC, added: “The y-word is a derogatory expression for a Jewish person... It is a word that has been adopted by Tottenham fans. It is wrong for them to say that they are ‘reclaiming’ it.”

Three Spurs fans were arrested in an attempted crackdown in 2014 for using "Yid" during a Europa League game, but the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued these cases.

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