David Cameron has waded into a race row by saying it is acceptable for fans of Tottenham Hotspur to use the controversial word ‘Yid’ in their chants.
The Prime Minister insisted Spurs supporters should not be prosecuted for using the word as they are not “motivated by hate” when referring to themselves as the “Yid army” and “Yiddos”.
Mr Cameron’s comments come amid controversy over the term’s use amongst Jewish groups who insist it is always offensive and encourages anti-Semitism.
They also contradict a statement made by the Football Association last week which described the term as “derogatory” and warned that any fan chanting it on the terraces could face criminal charges.
Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, Mr Cameron said: “There's a difference between Spurs fans self-describing themselves as Yids and someone calling someone a Yid as an insult.”
He added: “You have to be motivated by hate. Hate speech should be prosecuted - but only when it's motivated by hate.”
In its guidance issued last week, the FA said the word was likely to be considered as “offensive by the reasonable observer” and that its use was inappropriate at football matches.
It added: “Use of the term in a public setting could amount to a criminal offence, and leave those fans liable to prosecution and potentially a lengthy football banning order.”
In response to the FA warning, Tottenham said they plan to send a questionnaire to all season ticket holders asking them if they felt fans should stop the controversial chants.
Supporters reacted defiantly to the FA's statement on Saturday however, chanting “Yid Army” and “We'll sing what we want” throughout their 2-0 win over Norwich.
The FA’s stance on the term has been backed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews – the main representative body of Jewish people in the UK.
A post on the organisation’s website read: “By Tottenham fans using the Y-word, they are legitimising references to Jews in football when, frankly, religion, ethnicity or colour should have no place in sport”.
They added: “Even if they are using the term endearingly, it still has no place in a football stadium. And by using it they encourage other fans to respond, often in highly unpleasant ways.”
The Board went on to day: “Would we be having this debate, if a club chanted the N-word or P-word repeatedly during matches?”
For years Tottenham, who have a strong Jewish support, have been on the receiving end of anti-Semitic abuse from opposition fans.
In an act of unity and defiance at the abuse, both Jewish and non-Jewish supporters adopted the nickname ‘Yids’, with chants of “Yid Army” and “Yiddos” regularly sung in the home stands at White Hart Lane.
The practice has always been controversial however, with Jewish comedian David Baddiel producing a short film in 2011 branding the chanting anti-Semitic, and calling it as unacceptable as abuse suffered by black footballers.