by Kevin Henning
The unveiling of the truth over the past week has been THE most momentous event for British football fans for the last three decades. The releasing of documents previously unseen, relating to the tragedy that occurred in Sheffield in April 1989 has proved once and for all that football fans were treated like animals by the authorities for too long a period of time. The fact that Liverpool fans were completely blameless for the deaths of 96 innocent football fans and the determination of the survivors and families of the victims to prove this shows the world that we are decent people who simply have a passion for our sport.
On this very site, Chris Whiting’s recent study into football rivalry made fascinating reading. We all have reasons to despise other clubs with a passion. That passion however, all too often turns ugly when rival supporters spout sickening chants and songs and spit vitriolic abuse across the terraces of our stadiums. On the same day that supporters up and down the country reflected on the news of the week, a large section of supporters in Manchester United’s Stretford End, decided they could, as their chant of choice goes “Do what they want” and aimed a vicious, untimely attack on Liverpool Football Club.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust have backed Alex Ferguson’s calls for an end to the sick chants that blight fixtures between the two clubs but at the same time, claimed that “Always the victims, it’s never your fault” was not a reference to Hillsborough but rather, United fans harking back to the Luis Suarez racism case of 11 months ago. Yeah right, you were singing about things being Liverpool’s fault, in the same week as the truth about Hillsborough finally came out, because of an unrelated incident almost a year earlier, against Wigan Athletic. If that’s what the claimed intentions of the 4-5 thousand fans were then who am I to argue? I think we all know the real trigger for the chant though.
This is not meant to be aimed solely at United fans, it’s their fans who have made the headlines this weekend but fans of many clubs have stooped to similar levels at matches. The list of subjects that supporters have found humour in is as disturbing as it is long. In my time as a supporter, I alone have heard sick chants about the Munich air disaster, the Hillsborough tragedy, the Bradford fire, the Ibrox disaster, the murders of two Leeds fans in Turkey (which was allegedly the result of the chaos caused by other Leeds fans burning a Turkish flag), career threatening injuries, terminal illnesses, racism, homosexuality, paedophilia, terrorist bombings, child abuse cases, sunken Russian submarines, Harold Shipman’s murders and the Holocaust. It’s absolutely outrageous that these subjects are turned into terrace chants in an attempt to get one over on opposition fans or players and it would seem that no subject is taboo once thousands are gathered in one place on a Saturday afternoon.
Amongst next weekend’s fixtures is the Anfield match between Liverpool and Manchester United. Should the chant aired at Old Trafford be taken along the East Lancs Road to Merseyside, one can only imagine what the ramifications would be. Somewhere, somehow, this all has to stop. We are not the animals that the authorities tried to paint us as 23 years ago. We support our team. Without the fans of other clubs, the game would be boring and the intense rivalries are what makes our game so special. There has to be a line though and all too often, that line is being crossed.
Next weekend, as you prepare yourself to attend a match, whether you pull on a replica football top or a Burberry shirt, look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself whether you are going to watch your team or to mock death, disaster or a person’s creed. Football, it was once said, was far more important than life or death. Does your team’s three points really mean more to you than your own morals? After the staggering truths of the last seven days, it’s time for us all to tone down the abuse and get on with the game.