Our VoiceHealth & Environment

Racism Rears Its Ugly Head In British Football

Stephen Piggott • Dec 17, 2008

In September of this year, in an English Premier League game between Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth defender Sol Campbell was subjected to racist and homophobic chants by the traveling Tottenham fans. Campbell, one of the best defenders in the league over the past 16 years, has been abused constantly since 2001 when he left Tottenham to play for their arch rivals, Arsenal.

Campbell rubbed salt into the Tottenham fans wounds by leaving as a free agent, meaning that Arsenal didn’t have to pay a penny for his services. Campbell knew that leaving Tottenham for Arsenal would mean he would be hated by the Tottenham fans but no one could have predicted the unprecedented amount of abuse that Campbell has been subjected to over the past 7 years.

Campbell left Arsenal for Portsmouth in 2006 but the abuse from Tottenham fans has not stopped and in the most recent game between the two teams in September, fans took the abuse too far. In the 4 line chat directed towards Campbell, the Tottenham fans address numerous prejudices including the mentally ill, people who suffer from HIV, homosexuals, women, and lynching someone from a tree. Fans also reverted back to a commonly used chant directed towards Campbell.

For those of you reading this that are easily offended please feel free to skip over the next few lines.

The new chant directed against Campbell for the first time in the September games goes to the tune of Lord of The Dance: “Sol, Sol, wherever you may be, You’re on the verge of lunacy, and we don’t give a f*** if you’re hanging from a tree, you Judas c*** with HIV”

The “classic” chant directed against Sol Campbell in the September games as well as previous games goes as follows: “He’s big, he’s black, he takes it up the crack, Sol Campbell, Sol Campbell.”

As you can see, both chants are vicious and no human being, professional athlete or not, should be subjected to fans chanting such filth. After the game ended, many Portsmouth fans complained to the local police about the racist and homophobic chants but were initially told by the police that it was impossible to prosecute the fans because there was simply too many of them. In the days following the game, Sol Campbell, his manager Harry Redknapp, and the governing body of football in England the FA all publicly condemned the actions of the small group of traveling Tottenham fans.

In the past 2 weeks, the police have published pictures of 16 fans they believe are guilty of abusing Campbell, 12 of whom have been identified and 5 of which have been arrested, questioned by police and bailed. The FA has announced that it intends to ban for life any fan found guilty of abusing Campbell and the police are optimistic that it can identify the remaining 4 fans on the list.

The bottom line is that racism still exists in British football but it has come very close to eradication. Groups like Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card have done an immense job tackling racism in England since the early 1990’s and continue to do brilliant work today. Each year there are a few scattered incidents of racism in English football and the culprits are dealt life bans which has clearly encouraged others to keep their opinions to themselves and watch the game.

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