Leeds United and anti-Semitism

Leeds United (epltalk)

I read a fascinating but sad piece by Jessica Elgot of the JC on the racism she encountered at the Spurs v Leeds game last weekend.

I thought it would be the normal diatribe about Spurs fans singing “Yid Army” being anti-Semitic. It really isn’t. Spurs fans sing it week in week out and there has never been a hint of anti-Semitism about it. Spurs basically has always had a large Jewish following and a Jewish board of directors. The fans mean nothing sinister and if it allows them a good singalong (something severely lacking at their north London neighbours) then so be it.

The only thing that Spurs fans can really be accused of is thinking that Spurs are better than they really are.

But Jessica noticed something much more sinister: Some Leeds fans singing “Spurs are on their way to Belsen”.

Jessica writes: “But the Leeds fans went nowhere around White Hart Lane without being chaperoned by about twenty police officers per fan. Most were singing these chants in full view of the police. Who did nothing. No warning. No arrests. Nothing. What did the Tottenham door staff do, as the Leeds fans entered through the turnstiles, singing about gas chambers? Nothing. It was easier to keep their heads down and shut up.”

I have to admit that I was safely tucked away surreptitiously among the Spurs fans so I was immune to this chanting while biting my nails everytime Spurs won one of their many freekicks on the edge of Leeds United’s penalty area. But it doesn’t surprise me.

Leeds United have come a long way. When I was at Leeds University I used to go to every Leeds home game and always used to pass a member of the National Front selling the current issue of its magazine. Once I encountered a Leeds fan with a swastika tattoo.

These days there is nothing like that at Elland Road, just a good feeling of being surrounded by friendly, down-to-earth Yorkshire folk. Elland Road is one of the best places in Britain where whites, blacks, asians, Muslims, Jews and Christians sit down in unity to cheer their team on. There is no sectarianism or racism. 

Lucas Radebe (golplanet)

But Leeds on the road is a different affair.

When I went to see Millwall v Leeds a few years ago the Leeds fans booed their way through the minute’s silence for George Best, so much so that the referee had to call an end to the silent respect for a once great player after just 30 seconds. And on the way to the train afterwards a Leeds fan was literally singing the horrendous Munich 1958 plane crash song right in front of a policeman.  

This is all just a minority of fans and Leeds is not an inherently racist club. There is no racism ever about black or asian players and Lucas Radebe will always be loved by every Leeds fan for his commitment to and passion for Leeds United (the Keiser Chiefs, huge Leeds fans themselves, named themselves after his South African club). 

Leeds have always had a hooligan element; Leeds thugs are known as the Leeds Service Crew, also known as the Risk. But while the hooliganism and racism has mainly gone there is still an element that prevails. 

There is probably not much Leeds can do about this element. Now it is probably down to society to educate more about the horrors of the Holocaust and Holocaust Memorial Day this wednesday is a good start but not enough.

Maybe Ken Bates could have a say in his programme notes at the Leeds v Spurs replay on February 3rd about the sinister chanting that Jessica heard.

3 responses to “Leeds United and anti-Semitism

  1. I think the title is quite misleading to be fair, and some of the comment indicates that all the Leeds fans were singing this sick song.

    I was at WHL, and in and around London that Saturday. I didn’t hear it once, in the ground, outside the ground or anywhere on the way/from the ground. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, and I am definitely not justifying it.

    There are racists everywhere in society, there are some at Leeds Utd, as there are at all football clubs in this country.

    On a different note, I don’t suppose you noticed the 300 or so Leeds fans that were let out of the ground early by the police, and were subsequently coined and bottled by a large number of Spurs fans? Or while at Millwall, the Millwall fans wearing Galatasary shirts, waving Turkish flags, or making cut-throat gestures to the Leeds fans, in reference to the 2 Leeds fans murdered in Istanbul? Or maybe you were at a game the weekend that Don Revie died, and there were no milutes silences, and no respect shown? That doesn’t condone the Leeds fans not observing the minutes silence for George Best, but its more a kind of retaliation, whether its right or wrong.

    There are injustices everywhere, it would just be nice if they were reported in equal measure.

  2. richardmillett

    I totally agree with you. I am just worried by some Leeds fans. I was at the game last night in the East Stand and when Spurs scored their second i watched a 10 year old kid repeating the nazi salute towards Spurs fans and the adults around me mentioned Belsen and Auschwitz. I care about Leeds not falling to the level of other supporters. The FA should sort the other clubs out, including Millwall.

    The executives at the FA get paid huge salaries and they think they have successfully kicked hatred and racism out of football. They haven’t! Ken Bates is better than that though and i hope he does something about it.

  3. I can just about swallow Whitefanman’s comments about provocation by Spurs and Millwall fans, though I would also suggest that these things just go around in circles and it soon becomes a case of ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’.

    I know a peaceable Millwall fan who attended the second leg of the League One Play Off semi-final at Leeds last year – his experiences at the hands of some of your ‘friendly, down-to-earth Yorkshire folk’ makes the waving of Turkish flags look like small potatoes.

    That aside, however, I just cannot stand idly by whilst someone compares the way people in this country felt about George Best with the way they felt about Don Revie. There are simply no grounds whatsoever for any such comparison.

    Football clubs all have their heroes and Revie is a hero to Leeds fans because of the success he brought them. Best, on the other hand was a hero to lovers of football all over the world and became an icon of the age.

    For all his faults (and they were plentiful) George Best endeared himself to people well beyond the boundaries of Manchester and Northern Ireland because he was one of the most supremely talented footballers of his era and he captured the mood of an era in a way that no other British sportsman (not even the sainted Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton) of that time did. And yes, he was a loveable rogue to some, but a serial adulterer and an alcoholic to those who got too close to the flame.

    However because of the way the media chose to portray him, he was loved for all kinds of reasons and won the European Footballer of the Year whilst never playing in a major tournament for his country.

    He was an impish and gifted maverick who epitomised the ‘zeitgeist’ of the 1960’s in the same way as the likes of John Lennon, James Bond and David Bailey – to name but 3. At a time when most sportsmen were all linament and pints of mild, Best was E-Type Jaguars, Swedish models and champagne cocktails. And despite all this, he could still turn a football match on its head. The boy had a gift.

    Thus, when he died, despite the self-inflicted nature of it all, people mourned his passing because they were saying goodbye to a bit of their youth as much as they were to George himself.

    I suspect only Leeds fans could say the same when Don Revie died, because only Leeds fans loved Revie – no-one else did. They may have respected him, but the football played by his Leeds teams was attritional and functional – even the natural talents of Clarke & Gray had to play second fiddle to Revie’s dreary collectivism – Leeds & Revie could be respected, but loved? Not outside of Yorkshire, I suspect.

    When all is said and done, Revie was a man whose ‘professionalism’ (otherwise known as cynical play and negative tactics) brought the end of the age of innocence in English football. The taint of bungs and match-fixing still adheres to his name. He’s become a kind of anti-Shankly or anti-Busby…

    In the end , Revie even lost the right to people’s respect because of the way he left the England manager’s job. He died a forgotten man (outside of Leeds) which is why I suspect there would have been no minute’s silences anywhere but Leeds.

    And that’s about right. When Jeff Astle died, there was minute’s silence at The Hawthorns by the WBA fans, but no-one expected that the same thing would be happening at Old Trafford or Home Park, Plymouth or the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.

    So why does Whitefanman think that Revie should be so honoured outside of Elland Road? No-one loved Astle like the Baggies fans, no -one loved Revie like (or perhaps ‘except’) the Leeds fans, but football fans the world over, from Lisbon to Belfast and from Manchester to Los Angeles, they all loved George Best…..