Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Crossing the line

Place a normal, respectable member of society into a football stadium and, for 90 minutes at least, that person can, and often will, act in ways completely contrary to their common character and behaviour as their passion for their club is released in continuous screaming, singing and shouting.

Fortunately, the majority leave that behaviour in its rightful place on the stands and quickly return to normal life afterwards, until the following weekend when the cycle inevitably begins again. The majority will also retain some sense of moral decency and will realise that singing obscene songs about the death of others is absolutely unacceptable, regardless of the tribal rivalry often associated with football or their supposed "passion" for the game, which is sometimes pathetically used to mask offensive chanting.

However, a moronic minority can infiltrate the reasonable majority and ruin the match and agitate the atmosphere by chanting mockingly about football disasters, as was recently displayed when, astonishingly, the vitriol and hate usually reserved for first team football spilt into youth football as Manchester United's under 18s visited Anfield in the highly anticipated FA Youth Cup quarter final versus Liverpool's flourishing youngsters.

During the match a section of United's support despicably sung about the Hillsborough disaster, provoking the emergence of disturbing recollections amongst those who were in Sheffield on that fateful April day while also insulting the memory of the 96 who tragically lost their lives, not to mention the great offence felt by everyone associated with Liverpool Football Club.

Of course, Liverpool fans cannot claim the moral high ground on this issue either, with chants about the Munich air disaster, where several of United's "Busby Babes" died following an aircraft failure, sung by a minority when the Reds face their Manchester rivals.

In fact, prominent supporter group Spirit of Shankly, who have since been rightly applauded for battling successfully against previous owners Hicks and Gillett, were initially widely discredited because of video footage that showed a significant amount of members singing unacceptable songs about the Munich air disaster.

Only sincere apologies and the scaling problem of Hicks and Gillett improved their tarnished reputation and earned them majority support, although many, including myself, remain reluctant regarding Spirit of Shankly following such disgraceful behaviour.

With that in mind, it is clear that this is a prevalent problem that is not consigned to only a few clubs; hence it requires a widespread solution. The immediate removal of offenders must certainly be an element of any attempt to stamp out offensive chanting, however a more vocal disapproval from sensible supporters in the surrounding area ought to remove the root cause of hateful singing as the few idiotic fans would realise the unacceptable nature of their infantile behaviour.

Although some may attempt to oppose these measures by citing freedom of speech as a justification for offensive chanting, the restrictions of free speech imposed by law also apply within a football stadium and cannot be discounted when discussing this issue.

With the majority outraged and thoroughly disgusted by songs about Hillsborough, Heysel, Munich and various other football disasters, now is the time to stop the minority crossing the line between harmless banter and downright disgusting behaviour any further.


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