Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has called on Tottenham Hotspur fans to abandon their “Yid Army” chant, saying football supporters should not be identified along ethnic or faith lines.
Mr Corbyn made the remarks at a Show Racism the Red Card event on Thursday, where he also urged England players to walk out of World Cup matches this summer if they are racially abused.
Tottenham Hotspur, based in north London, has a long association with the local Jewish community, and racial epithets related to Jews have traditionally been used to abuse the club’s players and fans.
Spurs fans have claimed that adopting the term “yid” neutralises the epithet, although Mr Corbyn, a supporter of north London rivals Arsenal, argued that “it doesn’t really work”.
Speaking to the Guardian ahead of Saturday’s north London derby, he said: “There has been racist abuse at past matches between Arsenal and Spurs – instances of antisemitism and homophobia.
“Yes, football fans get very passionate but that is not acceptable and not allowed. Yid chants are unacceptable. It plays into something that’s not very good and we should be saying: ‘We’re the Spurs’ or ‘We’re the Arsenal’. Stick to your club; it’s your club that unites you.
“The idea of adopting a term to neutralise it doesn’t really work because it is identifying a club by an ethnic group or faith, whereas you should be identifying club through supporters.
“Calling Arsenal fans ‘Gooners’ or ‘Gunners’ is fine because that is what it is because of the origins or heritage of the club.”
In 2011, comedian David Baddiel and his brother, Ivor - both Chelsea supporters - launched a campaign to encourage Tottenham fans to stop using "yid", and a year later the Society of Black Lawyers threatened to report the club to the police if it failed to crack down on the chants.
In 2013 the Metropolitan Police told Tottenham fans using the Y-word in chants that they could face arrest, although this was reversed six months later after pressure from the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust.
It is still an offence, however, for opposition fans to supporters the term in a malicious way, and many clubs have committed to imposing lifetime stadium bans on offenders.
Police are currently investigating allegations that Liverpool supporters directed antisemitic language towards Tottenham Hotspur players after the two sides’ heated Premier League match on Sunday.
Video footage appeared to show a Liverpool fan in the Main Stand at Anfield using the term “Jewish c***s” moments after Spurs forward Harry Kane converted a contentious penalty to draw the match level at 2-2.
“Three or four” fans in total were also heard calling Tottenham players “Yid c**ts”, according to a journalist covering the game.