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Y-Word Fan Consultation: a response

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As a 24 year old attendee of hundreds of Tottenham games, I have pretty much only ever been exposed to the term ‘yid’ in a positive light. If it weren’t for the reclamation of the word by Spurs supporters, I would only know it to have negative connotations. Meanings associated with words in any language can change over time – and as far as I’m concerned – ‘yid’ has evolved from a term of abuse to one of endearment. A blanket ban on its use at football matches would therefore be a retrograde step, stripping the word of the positive association it has accrued, thus only leaving room for pejorative affiliation.

As with any form of language, the context and intent intrinsic to its use cannot be ignored. Exponents of a potential ban in football grounds all too readily overlook the historical background to the contemporary use of the word ‘yid’ at Tottenham matches. The intention behind its use among the Spurs faithful can effectively be extricated from that of rival supporters. It is undeniable that the club, which has represented the same North London area since 1882, has historically attracted a more Jewish followers than most of the country’s other football clubs. Tottenham supporters use the term as a badge of honour; it is part of the club’s identity. It is something that transcends immaterial speculation as to the actual proportion of Jewish supporters that make up the Tottenham fan base.

Despite the difficulty in disentangling tribal loyalties, the process of identifying whether a football supporter has been abusive in using the ‘y-word’ surely isn’t too complex for authorities to adopt a case-by-case approach. Other teams do not share this badge of honour, and so the chanting or shouting of ‘yid’ by other supporters will no doubt be aimed at Tottenham fans in order to cause offence. When it comes to the use of the ‘y-word’, context and intention is everything, and all things considered, discerning its application as an insult ought to be pretty cut and dried.

I am confused as to why someone like David Baddiel (whose views have been referenced by this consultation) has been such a prominent public figure in regards to the issue. Not only is he a comedian, he is a Chelsea fan! The argument he puts forward in that the adoption of the word ‘yid’ by Tottenham supporters legitimises the kind of anti-Semitic abuse he witnessed once at Stamford Bridge, is both shallow and deeply flawed. The adoption of the term was a response to such behaviour in the first place, and it’s a leap of faith to decide that banning its use by Spurs would kill it off. Also, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this leading proponent describes himself on twitter (the medium Baddiel has used to decree to over 300 000 followers that the use of ‘yid’ by Tottenham supporters is anti-Semitic) simply as … ‘Jew’. This means that by his own logic, were I to accost him in the street and shout the label he has deployed as a self-identifier, he would be the one deserving of punitive measures.

It would take a brave Tottenham fan who is Jewish to admit unease at the use of the ‘y-word’, I admit.  Such instances have been limited, while it is my view that the nature of the debate on the future use of ‘yid’ necessitates that Jewish Spurs fans should have the biggest say. I have not suffered discrimination resulting from my heritage unlike members of my family who were persecuted by the Nazis, and therefore I personally cannot speak on behalf of those who have been subject to unspeakable acts of anti-Semitism. However, I truly believe that the majority of fans – those who have felt the impact of the ‘y-word’ on both sides – are proud of the way Spurs have reclaimed the term and would therefore deplore a restriction on its use.

The fact that the Prime Minister has spoken on the issue, I find perplexing. There are far more pressing matters that both he, and the powers that be in the world of football need to address. The sooner the ‘Y-word debate’ dissipates and those that have been given a platform in the media concentrate on affairs they are more informed about, the sooner the negativity surrounding the word ‘yid’ will diminish.

The collective appropriation by Tottenham supporters of the term ‘yid’ is positive, just as the use of ‘army’ in the famous chant is figurative. Together, members of the ‘yid army’ – an undoubtedly ethically pluralistic entity – have defiantly challenged those who have been derogatory and/or anti-Semitic towards them. It has been a dignified way to confront bigotry. Our use of the term ‘yid’, therefore, ought not to merit punishment.

 

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