Arsenal fans to sue club over anti-Semitic chanting

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The Independent Online

Three Arsenal season ticket holders have instructed human rights lawyers to bring a legal challenge against their own club over what they allege is racist chanting in the new Emirates Stadium.

In a letter sent to the Arsenal chairman, the fans – a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian – claim that the use of the anti-Semitic words "Yids" or "Yiddos" in reference to players and fans from Tottenham Hotspur amounts to a breach of Race Relations Act.

Their solicitor, Lawrence Davies, a leading human rights lawyer at the London law firm Equal Justice, has asked the club to take immediate action to stamp out all racist chanting at the club.

Mr Davies's letter, sent this week to Peter Hill-Wood, makes it clear that the season-ticket holders can sue the club for breach of contract as Arsenal has a written policy of taking firm action against racist behaviour in the stadium.

Arsenal fans argue that the use of the words "Yids" and "Yiddos" in reference to their north London rivals is not racist but simply directed at the club's Jewish history and point out that Tottenham fans even refer to themselves as the "Yid Army". But Mr Davies says this does not stop the language from being offensive and anti-Semitic.

Mr Davies says in his letter: "The test in law is whether the language concerned causes offence to the person concerned. Our five clients are all Arsenal supporters and three are season-ticket holders. The season-ticket holders include a Jewish member and a Muslim member. They have all felt offended."

He claims that by taking no action, the club would appear to be in breach of the Race Relations Act 1976 in the provision of a service or permitting harassment to occur without challenge.

His letter adds: "The season-ticket holders have a contractual relationship with the club. The contract states that fans exhibiting racist behaviour will have their contracts terminated and will be ejected form a particular match. None of the 'Yid' chanters have been challenged."

Mr Davies and his clients readily acknowledge that work has been done to combat racism in recent years.

But he adds: "It is simply not sufficient to state in the match-day programme that the club is against racism ... There needs to be an approach to tackle racism which educates fans on anti-racist behaviour." The fans have also asked their lawyer to write to Herman Ousely, the chairman of Let's Kick Racism Out Of Football, and Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The legal challenge comes after Arsenal signed a £350,000 sponsorship deal with the Israeli tourism ministry in which images of players are used to promote the country as an ideal tourism destination.

It gives Arsenal strong ties with both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arsenal's new stadium carries the name of the Emirates airline, owned by the United Arab Emirates government, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

An Arsenal spokesman said: "Arsenal Football Club will not tolerate foul language and racist chanting at Emirates Stadium. Whether Arsenal supporters or visiting fans are responsible, we will take action – through the courts if necessary – to stamp out this unacceptable behaviour. Where evidence exists (including video evidence), prosecutions will follow."