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Taking responsibility

Having posted only yesterday about the obscene chants directed by a proportion of Manchester United fans at Arsene Wenger last Saturday, I’m pleased to see that further action is already being taken.

In response to an official complaint from Arsenal about the defamatory nature of some of the content of a CD of Man U chants, Amazon have now removed it from their store, following the earlier example of Play.com.

Like Play, Amazon were not under any legal obligation to remove the item from sale, and their statement carefully stresses that, “We would not remove a product from our site because some, or many, people find it to be distasteful or otherwise objectionable. We believe it is censorship to make a product unavailable for those reasons.”

Quite right too. There is a fine line to be walked between good sense and censorship that sets my spider-sense tingling slightly but, even after setting my own club allegiance aside, this still feels like a decision which should be applauded. The particular chant which has been the subject of much heated debate in recent days levels an accusation at an individual that is utterly without foundation and therefore renders the CD libellous.

Equally encouraging to see is the news that Man U themselves are pledging affirmative action on their part, with chief executive David Gill to raise the matter of how to stop these offensive chants at the next official fans’ forum meeting.

Philip Townsend, director of communications at Old Trafford, said: “We have gone on the record – several times – about this disgusting chant. We don’t condone it and have appealed to fans several times in the past – through supporters’ groups, the matchday programme and MUTV, but to no avail. There are many chants that opposing fans find objectionable, and this is certainly one to which all decent supporters should object.”

In addition to applauding the club’s move to take the initiative rather than turn a deaf ear, I personally like the approach they are taking. Rather than it being seen as a club’s ‘failure to control their fans’, as football parlance likes to (incorrectly) term such things, this puts the onus firmly on the supporters to come up with ways of removing – or at least, effectively punishing – one of English football’s less endearing features. For sure, the club has a role to play in terms of leading the way; ultimately, though, the fans should take responsibility for their own behaviour, and not wait for some authority figure to impose a hard-handed solution. Obscene chants are the fans’ failure to control themselves, not the club’s.

It’s a positive first step. Let’s hope that it not only leads to a positive change among Man U supporters, but that it also encourages other clubs to take similar steps. Arsenal has a history of anti-Semitic chants directed at Tottenham fans (now, thankfully, largely eradicated), and more recently of homophobic slurs against former Gunner Ashley ColeLiverpool taunt Man U about the Munich air crash; the Old Trafford faithful reciprocate with cruel reminders of Hillsborough. And Sol Campbell has been subjected to particularly vile chants by supporters of the Tottenham team he once captained.

It’s not big, it’s not clever, and those who attempt to hide behind the wafer-thin defence of ‘traditional football banter’ are not so much politically incorrect as Neanderthal in their beliefs. I’m sure that all right-thinking football fans hope that the game can also evolve accordingly.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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