Good morning everyone!
Last night, I watched Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, which had a look at some undercover footage of the nation’s football grounds. Football grounds remain a major front in the war against racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transpobia, anti-semitism, anti-muslimism, anti-vegetarianism and whatever other new ism or phobia has been appended to the list since I last studied it.
I doubt whether these categories of dickishness are really important; they all form part of a larger war against stupidity. What is important is that, from the trenches, it appears that this war is well on the way to being lost. I haven’t witnessed much of this particular brand of yobbery at The Emirates, where the crowd is a pretty diverse lot. That said, it’s the North London Derby the weekend after next; I’m quite sure something distasteful will be chanted, especially in the event that Emmanuel Adebayor at any point kicks the ball.
There are certain sorts of stupidity, you see, that seem to acquire a social licence in a football stadium. You can, for instance accuse a perfect stranger of being a paedophile, or speculate on the sexual habits of a player’s wife, with relative impunity. This sort of thing is often excused as ‘harmless banter’. Now, I’m not going to try and dictate to you all what’s ‘harmless banter’ and what’s ‘inexcusable idiocy’, you’re all capable of making that distinction yourselves. I’d only suggest that such a line should not jerk wildly from side-to-side depending on whether or not you’re standing in a football stadium.
Now, when discussing discrimination, especially on racial or religious grounds, it’s common to allow a certain sort of uber-simplicity to creep into your rhetoric, if only to pre-empt allegations that you’re a fascist (or something). The show was called ‘hate on the terraces’ or something. The accompanying hashtag was ‘#terracehate’.
So here’s a reminder for you all: Say no to hate! Say yes…TO LOVE!!!1
God, if I hate anything, it’s that sort of oversimplification. Is it not important to qualify what’s being hated and why? Hating nothing at all is a virtual impossibility, achievable only by the vegetative and certain sorts of religious hermits. Or by those that have procured The Little Book of Calm. Harbouring some small quantity of hatred is pretty healthy. Not too much – a ball of the stuff, around the size of a smallish jar of jam, festering in your guts. It’s the object of your hatred that’s important.
It’s acceptable to hate certain things. It’s desirable, even; you might go so far as to say obligatory. Hating things like racism would be a good example. Others might include hating traffic jams, WKD, and the works of Michael Bay. Hating an ethnicity, and those that belong to it, is not one of those things. Because there is no logical reason for it. Call me crazy, I think this distinction is important, and should be reiterated more often.
So who is going to sort this problem out? Well, apparently the frontline soldiers of this war are football match stewards. You know, stewards, the yellow-jacket wearing people whose job it is to tell people to sit down? Quite what they expect the stewards to do when faced with a horde of football hooligans, I have no idea. Charge the side of the Uruk-Hai throng like Gandalf in the battle of Helm’s Deep? Ask them politely to chill out? Report it to their supervisors?
Well that last one sounds sensible, but I’m not entirely sure why such a report should be necessary. The thing with football chants is that they are, almost by definition, designed to be projected as far as possible, in order to cause maximum number of people to hear them and so be antagonised. If a hundred or so people decide to bellow ‘I’d rather be a Paki than a Jew’ across a football stadium, and nothing is done, it seems more of an indication of selective deafness on the part of the people who run the club whose fans are shouting racist bile than on the part of the stewards. If we’re really serious about leaving stewards to handle this problem, we should probably try and ensure that they have a proper training in Jui-Jitsu, or hostage negotiation – or both; but then they’d probably have to be paid a great deal more than minimum wage. Perhaps advances in cybernetics will help in this regard.
I really, really can’t work out why people would want to give voice to that sort of phrase, let alone shout it in a public space. And I don’t feel much qualified to speculate, either. You’d have to ask some sort of behavioural psychologist (something which Dispatches failed to do). At the risk of oversimplifying, I suspect the answer relates to the fact that they’re tossers.
I hate tossers. But their existence is, by and large, not the real problem. The real problem arises when tossers collaborate with other tossers in order to air their tosserishness in the most overtly tosserish way possible. That we can do without. That said, I don’t agree with any sort of speech being criminalised. But a football club is just that: a club. Clubs are entitled to exclude whoever they like, and for whatever reason they like. And the sort of inexcusable melonhead under discussion here is an obvious candidate for such exclusion.
Until next week