Thursday, 27 December 2018

It's Just Bantz, Isn't It?

Not too long ago my work colleague asked to attend a Chelsea match with me. Chelsea ticket exchange enabled me to sort out a couple of plum first row seats in the Upper Tier of the West Stand. I remembered he was Jewish but assumed as the match was not a crowd puller there would be no silly chants. There weren't of course. It was the usual Ten Men Went to Mow, Carefree and The Sh*t from Tottenham Hotspur. It was at the end of the last song that he turned to me and asked if he had correctly heard the fans singing that Tottenham "are a load of y*ds" with his mouth aghast. Time almost stood still as I realised that what I had seen as simply short-handed banter against our North London rivals was seen as nothing of the sort to him. He was also the global head of the company I worked for.

It is a catchy tune in no doubt, but the recent highlighting of Chelsea fans' behaviour warrants attention. There is a reticence for me to bring my young daughter to Chelsea matches due to fearing her hear what on the whole are some of the worst chants in the league. Even when she was lucky enough to be a mascot at a recent game, there were people in the family section not averse to joining in chants that they had no shame in singing in front of their kids.

In a recent conversation with another senior manager, he said that he had stopped going to Chelsea football matches as he simply found the behaviour of too large a minority intolerable. There are many Chelsea fans who are more patient and see their strongest act of defiance being to simply not join in - it is difficult to have a go at fans inside a stadium where you may have a season ticket and have your cards marked. I remember when I once said what I felt to another fan and hey presto at the next away match he had a small gathering of his neanderthal mates to make sure I knew I was being watched.

The problem with the misbehaviour of a minority (and let's face it, it is not a tiny fraction of support) is that it spoils it for the rest of us. Since away fans have brought the club into disrepute during our travels to Europe, we now have to collect tickets on the day of games. There has not been one away European match where I have not heard some form of chanting that fans believe they can get away with on the assumption that they won't get caught as they are never forced to sit in their own seats. Perhaps they think that the home fans understand their lyrics? At some stage we shall have draconian measures in place for our domestic aways where an id will have to be produced to match the name on a ticket (on the plus side this will weed out those on away season ticket schemes who just buy tickets for the loyalty points).

I remember when I attended my first Chelsea match over 30 years ago. On the Monday morning at school I was effing and blinding words that I had learnt from the terraces. Normalising chants that involve the "Y" word gives a poor example to kids and brings a bad name for a club that is already on the radar of the media's most hated for not playing in red.

I had to apologise to the Jewish fan and made a mental note not to join in such chants when they can easily offend. He did return to see another Chelsea match - Leicester away two seasons ago. I dread to think what he thought of the chanting he witnessed in the away end but he has not spoken to me about the game since.

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