I can’t speak as to the cause of offensive fan chants in England, because I’m not a social studies expert. I could, as many writers, bloggers and pundits do from time, make vague reference to “football tribalism,” but that concept hardly comes close to explaining why hundreds of adult humans would think it within the bounds of acceptable behaviour to sing songs about the deaths of 96 men, women and children in a stadium crush, or about the deaths of 23 people in an air disaster.
As far as that goes, I can only pull a Wittgenstein and say, in all honesty, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” What I can speak to however is the emerging pattern in the aftermath of the Hillsborough report yesterday of various football personalities calling for an end to offensive stadium chants over the 1989 stadium crush at the FA Cup semifinal between Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool FC.
No doubt prompted by a journalist question on the matter as Liverpool play United this Sunday, LFC manager Brendan Rodgers said today,
“Unfortunately you have a very small percentage of idiots at any club who will always try to smear another club’s reputation.
“Of course, it is obvious these are chants that no-one wants to hear about any club.
“Unfortunately there are that minority of supporters who will maybe disappoint but let’s hope we can all move on and we can all learn from this whole process.”
The Telegraph’s Paul Hayward penned an op-ed calling for an end to the practice, and a lifetime ban for those who perpetuate it:
Yet there could never be a better time to end the disgusting mockery of each club’s grief.
“You killed your own fans” was always cruel and inflammatory. Now it plays into the hands of those who doctored witness statements, searched for criminal convictions with which to smear the dead and briefed Whites Press Agency in Sheffield that Liverpool fans had stolen from corpses and urinated on police.
However venomous the rivalry between the clubs, there will be a common enemy when they meet at Anfield on Sunday week.
Unfortunately, I’m willing to bet that the kind of person who joins in this kind of chanting isn’t exactly the sort of person to take advice from a rival football club manager or a noted newspaper columnist. Neither are they the sort of person to acknowledge the release of a damning report as an opportune moment to stop being a hideous shit-stain of a human being.
I’m willing to bet that Hayward, as well as the journalist who asked Rodgers the question, were aware of this. So it begs the question: why, after all that’s happened in the last twenty-four hours, take the opportunity to draw attention to a small minority of terrible people for ugly fan chants? Why brace for the worst, rather than celebrate the best in the past few days, like the solidarity of supporters trusts from across the divide in calling for further criminal charges in the wake of the report? Why not call attention to the fact that in 1989, all fans of English football were as equally vulnerable to police disdain, unsafe conditions, and inadequate disaster response protocols? Why reward evil with press attention? What end does it serve except to underline the same stereotype of the football fan as infantile monster in need of guidance from the proper authorities?