The debate over racism in football took a new direction yesterday when the Society of Black Lawyers demanded Tottenham Hotspur and the Football Association make greater efforts to combat anti-Semitic chanting in the next two weeks or face a complaint being made to the Metropolitan Police.
The move was broadly supported by David Baddiel, the comedian and author who has become a campaigner against anti-Semitic chanting and the use of the word "Yids", although Baddiel stressed that the problem extends well beyond White Hart Lane.
"It will certainly force the issue," said Baddiel, who made a film highlighting the problem last year. "I support what they are doing if it brings the debate about the chanting of the 'Y-word' into greater focus.
"Our campaign, and the whole issue of the 'Y-word', is not just about Spurs. [We] made the Kick It Out film following racist abuse at Chelsea. The 'Y-word' is used all the time at Chelsea, and other London clubs, aggressively, in order to demonstrate hatred of Spurs; but it very quickly shades into wider anti-Semitic abuse.
"Our feeling about Spurs' saying that their fans use it in a 'positive' way is that it ignores the reality, which is that as long as Spurs fans use it, then opposing fans will feel justified in chanting it back at them in extreme and violent ways. Generally, reclamation of racist language is normally something which is inspired by the ethnic minority in question deciding to use the negative words themselves, but most Spurs fans are, in fact, not Jewish."
Peter Herbert, chairman of the SBL and the source of the complaint against Mark Clattenburg over the recent Chelsea-Manchester United match, said: "In discussions with members of the Jewish community, we were made aware that this practice is still continuing and it has to come to an end. If neither Tottenham FC nor the FA are willing to take a stand then SBL will report the matter to the Metropolitan Police Service for investigation and, if necessary, prosecution. The report will be made if this behaviour does not cease by 20 November."
Spurs defended their supporters and their stance via a statement. It read: "The club does not tolerate any form of racist or abusive chanting. Our guiding principle in respect of the 'Y-word' is based on the point of law itself – the distinguishing factor is the intent with which it is used, ie if it is used with the deliberate intention to cause offence.
"Our fans adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term to others to cause any offence."
The SBL also proposed yesterday a 10-point plan to deal with racism in the game that included a nine-month ban for any player found to have racially abused an opponent.