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Home   /   How does Spurs fans’ use of the Y-word impact the Jewish community?

“This other guy said, oh, you’re Jewish, you are a dirty fucking yid to my face. And then it all kind of spiralled from there really. They were coming to fight me, I had to be restrained and that’s when the whole fight started. I went up to them to tell them why it wasn’t right,” said Katie Price, Jewish Arsenal fan. January 15th, 2023, Katie Price was victim of an anti-Semitic attack in the Cally pub in Islington by fellow Arsenal fans, whilst watching the North London derby. How is this still happening in 2023? The use of the Y-word continues to be ignored every single week. 

Katie Price looking frustrated as she explains the recent anti-Semitism directed
at her during an interview conducted over zoom.

The hate for Spurs from opposition fans has drifted into hate for Jewish people for too long. According to the Community Security Trust (CST), reported anti-Semitic incidents in recent years have been at an all-time high. In the first six months of 2021, there were 1,371 incidents reported, the joint-fifth-highest total ever reported to the CST between January and June in any year and 1,148 more reported incidents than in 2012. Anti-Semitism is rife within society and as sport is often a reflection of society, this can trickle into football and other sports.

Although originally not an offensive word, ‘Yid’ became offensive throughout the 1930s and 40s, when it was used as a derogatory word to describe Jewish citizens particularly by the Nazi regime throughout WW2. Price said, “I think we can’t forget that. The Y-word does come from Nazi Germany, you know, it does come from Nazis, it was used by the black shirts. And when people kind of try and laugh it off, or say it’s something that they’ve claimed, unless you’re Jewish, it’s not yours to say.”  

Some Tottenham supporters have tried to embrace the Jewish connection of the club, attempting to reclaim the ‘Y’ word to hit back at racist chants towards them and build a togetherness against anti-Semitic people. Chants such as ‘Yid Army’ are sung at every match and supporters shout ‘Yiddo’ when someone scores, as a term of endearment towards them, saying ‘you’re one of us’.

Embed from Getty Images

Spurs fans are pictured with the Israel flag – many people associate the club as Jewish.

Sam Cohen, Jewish Spurs supporter, said: “I think it can have a positive and negative impact on the Jewish community, I know Jewish people who are proud that Spurs have adopted the word in a positive way and sing it loud as a show of unity. Also, I know some who don’t like it and think it has a negative impact as it’s a word that gets thrown around easily with a lot of people not knowing the history behind the word and the negative connotations behind it. Overall, as a Jewish person I think it has a more positive impact.”

Many of those reclaiming an offensive word towards Jewish people are not Jewish, therefore, those people don’t have a right to reclaim the Y-word. If you are not Jewish then you have no real connection to the Y-word and the history that comes with it.

Lord Mann, Government advisor for anti-Semitism said, “Because the vast majority are not Jewish, it’s a misappropriation of the term and it becomes a cultural issue. There are Jewish Spurs fans who are quite happy with it, but they’re decreasing in number. Spurs need to be careful, because they don’t want to start losing fans from this.”

David Baddiel is a campaigner against anti-Semitism and the use of the Y-word for a long time and co-wrote a short film for Kick it out in 2011 asking fans to stop using the word. Baddiel wrote in the Guardian in September 2013, “It’s a call and response dynamic, like many at football matches. So, the more Spurs do it, the more it comes back, with menaces.”

However, some Spurs fans feel like the focus should be on opposition supporters who shout anti-Semitic remarks and sing anti-Jewish songs, such as making hissing sounds or references to Auschwitz. Cohen said, “I don’t think there is any focus or punishment on those who are anti-Semitic, I’ve been to games and been hissed at and no punishment has happened, all that the media or the club do after is to blame spurs fans!”

In August 2019, Tottenham completed a consultation with supporters over the use of the Y-word and received over 23,000 responses. The findings from the survey were that 33% of respondents use the Y-word regularly in a footballing context. 18% of respondents that do not use the term in a footballing context consider it ‘offensive’ and only 12% of respondents would use the term outside of a footballing context. Furthermore, 94% of respondents acknowledge the Y-word can be considered a racist term against a Jewish person. Following the results, Tottenham asked supporters to stop using the Y-word and said they believe it’s “time to reassess” the use of the word.  

If Spurs are going to attempt to eradicate the word or reduce it, they need a plan. Mann said, “I think it’s a combination of education and sanction. I think, away tickets, it would be easier because there’s an excess demand for that, as spurs use a points system. It’s easy then, you deduct a thousand points off people, they won’t be getting any tickets. That will affect behaviour.”

Despite the club asking supporters to stop using the word, it continues to be used in chants such as, ‘they tried to stop us and look what it did, the thing I love most is being a Yid.’

Mann said, “I would start with teenagers. The vast number of teenagers will have a family member who goes therefore, that’s why I would use people like Harry Kane. If you got 30 Teenagers before Spurs Vs Aston Villa in the morning, three o’clock Kick-off. 12pm, Harry Kane calls in before heading off for pre-match preparations. Spends ten minutes doing some photos and signs autographs. If he Says ‘look, these are our values, that’s what you are If you’re Spurs’, that would have a massive impact.”

Spurs fans looking on as Tottenham take on Aston Villa at Villa Park

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