Change the record
Posted on 21st September 2012
At Football Supporters’ Federation meetings it isn’t unusual for us to have lively discussions on the nature of matchday chanting. These debates often mirror the online chat found on fans’ forums and in social media. What one fan finds offensive, another finds acceptable or even funny. It’s rare for every last person at an FSF meeting to agree on what is or isn’t acceptable – it’s a debate that’s had at stadiums and pubs across the country.
However, what every last member of the FSF’s National Council unequivocally agrees on is this – songs about human tragedy have no place inside our stadiums. Revelling in the personal misfortune of others, whether it’s an event relating to an individual player or on a collective level affecting many more, simply cannot be explained away as “banter”. It isn’t.
Since last week’s revelations about the Hillsborough Disaster, an increasing number of supporters from many, many clubs have said that enough is enough. We welcome this and ask all fans to consider that they have a responsibility towards ensuring certain chants become as unacceptable on the terraces as racism.
“Abuse and vile chants, whether in a stadium or on a Tube train, are not ‘banter’, they foster a climate in which football fans are feared, which is the first step to the authorities seeking to restrain fans rather than protect them,” argued an excellent editorial in The Independent. It is difficult to disagree and we see such attitudes reflected (on occasion) by matchday policing and stewarding. Fans have a duty of care towards each other and are, ultimately, part of the same tribe.
A huge amount of the FSF’s time is invested to try and ensure that matchday policing and stewarding is proportionate and reflects today’s behaviour, rather than reputations earned in a bygone era. It is sometimes difficult for the FSF to persuade the authorities to take a more relaxed approach when a tiny minority let their fellow fans down. Self-policing can help ensure that we’re not all tarred with the same brush.
Part of the beauty of football, and one of the reasons it’s so loved, is that for 90 minutes every week, fans have the opportunity to become a different person – a passionate, vocal part of a much larger entity that simultaneously provides anonymity and identity.
Being part of a football crowd in full flow is a great privilege but with that privilege comes responsibility. It is not an excuse to tolerate or join in with songs, chants, or gestures that can cause profound hurt to fellow fans and non-fans alike.
The FSF does not exist to preach at fans – that’s not what we’re about – but the overwhelming majority of supporters know and understand what is and isn’t acceptable, and they don’t want a minority spoiling it for them.
Enjoy the weekend and please feel free to show your support for this message by spreading the word and joining the FSF.
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