Divisive Y-word proves a tough issue to tackle for Tottenham Hotspur fans
Daniel Wynne, a governor of a united synagogue primary school in north London, comes from a family who escaped the Nazis and fled to England. A lifelong Spurs fan, he sings along with chants that have been described as anti-Semitic.
For the past few months the use of the Y-word, Yid, by Tottenham Hotspur supporters has caused widespread debate.
Comedian and Chelsea supporter David Baddiel produced a video with the Kick it Out Campaign aiming to stop Spurs fans chanting Yid Army because it “sustains anti-Semitism” in football.
An exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Albert Street, Camden Town, in October will explore Jewish involvement in British football.
For Mr Wynne, 42, a senior member of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, the use of the term by Spurs fans is about empowerment - a reaction against racist chants aimed at them for the clubs long-standing Jewish connections.
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“The term was used against us by fans of clubs like Chelsea and West Ham,” he says. “I will always defend Spurs fans when they use it, but only when inside a football ground.
“It wouldn’t be right for people to come up to me in the street and use the word, but inside the ground it’s a term of endearment. There’s no malice. It’s just fans trying to get behind their team. There’s no intention to cause offence.”
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But Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, a group which has called for Spurs fans using the Y-word to be prosecuted, disagrees.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of Jewish fans who phoned us to say that it legitimises what other people do. It is inexcusable for the vast majority of Tottenham fans who are gentile to use the word.”
For all the talk of Spurs being a “Jewish club” with a long history of Jewish ownership, most Tottenham supporters are not Jews, a fact which, as Joanne Rosenthal, curator of the upcoming exhibition acknowledges, makes a lot of Jewish people uncomfortable.
Ms Rosenthal said: “It’s a massively-charged issue. I went to White Hart Lane and was amazed that the chanting still happens.
“The word is so divorced from its original meaning, and the majority of people use it without ever thinking that it means ‘Jew’. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, but I can understand why it would.”
The Y-word became a hot topic last season after a number of incidents of anti-Semitic abuse aimed at Tottenham fans were reported.
Ashley Mills, a 25-year-old Spurs fan, was severely injured as he and 10 fans were attacked before a Europa League game against Lazio in Rome. Witnesses reported that the Italian perpetrators had shouted “Jews” at the Tottenham supporters before the attack.
Soon after, some West Ham supporters aimed anti-Semitic abuse at Tottenham fans during a game.
For Anthony Clavane, author of Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?, which explores Jewish involvement in British football, it is wrong to put the blame on Spurs fans. He said: “The real blame should be aimed at the opposition fans. I would like to persuade the Spurs fans to move on but I understand why they adopted it in the first place.”
* Four Four Jew: Football, Fans and Faith is at the Jewish Museum London from October 10 until February 23, 2014.