The Football Association has opened an official probe into fan behavior during Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal match between Tottenham Hotspur and Millwall after reports of racist chants from both the visiting and home supporter sections.
Some parts of Millwall’s traveling away support reportedly chanted “DVD” and “he’s selling three for a fiver” at South Korean Spurs forward Son Heung-Min, an apparent reference to the stereotype of Asians who sell products on the streets in England. Not to be outdone, pockets of Tottenham home supporters reportedly chanted back “No noise for the pikey boys” at the Millwall fans, a racist reference to the Romani people that’s probably closest to “hillbilly” or “redneck” in America.
In the Guardian, it was reported that both Millwall and Tottenham Hotspur will willingly assist the FA in their investigation. Spurs will provide video taken during the match to help identify chants and possibly individuals who were engaged in disruptive behavior.
“Millwall have led the way on anti-discrimination initiatives and will continue to do so. The club is assisting the FA with their investigation and will make no further comment until that process is complete.”
— Millwall FC club statement
“We strongly condemn the use of any racist language. We shall be passing on all of our footage to the relevant authorities which can assist with the identification of anyone responsible for such chanting at yesterday’s game.”
— Tottenham Hotspur club statement
I hate writing about this stuff, because it’s so stupid that this kind of thing still happens in 2017 at football stadiums. It was exactly the kind of thing that we all hoped would not happen, and it’s extremely disappointing to see it coming from both Spurs and Millwall supporters.
It’s a sad fact that security was significantly heightened ahead of and during this match because of the increased possibility of violence both outside and within the stadium. Spurs even went so far as to remove the advertising signage in the away supporters section to avoid possible damage, like what happened during the North London Derby last year. While there were minor scuffles outside the stadium, it looks as though violence was held mostly in check through the increased security measures, which is good.
We rail against the “small percentage of idiots” who do these things, and it’s certainly true that most football fans don’t engage in violence or boorish behavior. And yet it’s also true that there is a distinct fan culture around clubs like Millwall that revels in this kind of behavior, has been cultivated and tacitly approved via inaction over decades, and that also brings out the idiots in other clubs’ support who feel as though they need to retaliate in kind.
In both cases, it behooves both clubs to work to identify the fans responsible for this kind of behavior and to address it head on. I personally hope that there are bans issued to fans on both sides. It also would not surprise me in the slightest if the FA issues a fine to both clubs at the conclusion of their investigation.
To quote a hackneyed expression, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Tottenham fans are deeply aware of the club’s history with anti-semitic abuse, and while Spurs fans have a right to be angry when racism is perpetuated against the club’s players, we should also should be first in line to call out our own when they cross the same line. Whether they are Millwall or Tottenham fans, racism has no place in the modern game, and for every racist kicked out of White Hart Lane there are no doubt dozens of non-racist supporters who would be glad to take their place.