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Y-Word Consultation - Update

Fri 21 March 2014, 15:35|Tottenham Hotspur

In October 2013 the Club commissioned the independent research consultancy Populus to conduct a fan consultation on its behalf regarding Tottenham Hotspur fans’ use of the Y-word. The Club delayed the reporting of the outcome of this research whilst three legal cases in respect of our fans arrested for using the Y-word were underway. The Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to proceed with those prosecutions and we are now able to outline the findings of the consultation.

An online consultation was sent to all One Hotspur Season Ticket Holders and Members. Respondents were presented with a variety of differing, publicly articulated arguments and views on the use of the Y-word and then given the opportunity to write a free text response detailing their own opinions on the subject.

The response to the survey was overwhelming with almost 11,500 completed consultations received. We should like to take this opportunity to thank fans that participated for providing such detailed, articulate and heartfelt responses on the subject.

The Club has read each and every comment provided in order to gain a thorough understanding of all the sentiments expressed and then asked Populus to undertake a more detailed sentiment analysis of a representative sample. This analysis was carried out on a highly robust and representative subsample of non-Jewish fans, and given the context and history of the word, the Club felt it was also important to include all responses from Jewish fans in this extra analysis.

The outcome of these exercises has clearly demonstrated the complex and evolving nature of this issue.

Fans Usage

The consultation that was carried out, showed that, whilst the majority of all the respondents, 67%, stated that they regularly chanted the word in a football match situation, virtually all qualified this behaviour by putting this into context and outlining many of the issues associated with its use.

The follow-up sentiment analysis carried out by Populus showed that 74% of non-Jewish respondents and 73% of Jewish respondents were generally in favour of fans being allowed to use the Y-word while 12% of non-Jewish respondents and 8% of Jewish respondents stated that they were either unsure or held a neutral position on whether fans should be allowed to continue to use the word.

History of the Word

Some supporters outlined in their comments how the term came into use in response to anti-Semitic chanting from rival supporters with a significant proportion of fans (39% of non-Jewish respondents and 29% of Jewish respondents) stating that the word was part of Spurs’ “heritage and identity”.

One fan explained, “I remember standing at White Hart Lane in the 1970s and 80s while rival supporters especially from London Clubs chanted anti-Semitic songs ... Once the Spurs supporters adopted the word as their own identity then the rival chanting ceased.”

A number of our supporters also explained that the term was now “a sign of togetherness, part of our history and heritage” and was viewed as a “badge of honour” sung by fans because they “are proud to be part of Tottenham”.

Intent and Context

Many fans (46% of non-Jewish respondents and 40% of Jewish respondents) did identify however that the context and intent was an important consideration in this debate. One fan said “I think context is the key thing, which determines if any word is offensive, or not. When used by Spurs fans, the term ‘Yid’ is a sign of respect saying ‘you’re one of us’. Most of us are not Jewish; that does not matter because the word is not being used literally.”

Another fan explained, “I consider myself a respectful person and would never use the term ‘Yid’ to cause offence to another supporter or member of the public. The use of the word at the Lane is always in reference to ourselves and therefore intends to cause no harm or distress to others.”

Where fans identified context, many also recognised that context is subjective; and that offence can be taken, even when not intended.

Concerns raised about continued use

A number of supporters, (12% of non-Jewish respondents and 18% of Jewish respondents) outlined that they were against allowing fans to continue to use the term with 4% of non-Jewish fans and 6% of Jewish fans specifically stating that they were personally uncomfortable with its use.

One fan said, “As a Jew I feel the Y-word is socially and morally wrong”, while another stated “I believe we need to drop the Y-word at Spurs because I would not be comfortable to take my children to games and have to explain the fans are singing the Y-word and what it means, especially in the context of the historical persecution of the Jews across Europe.”

13% of the non-Jewish fans were of the view that if people found the term offensive it should be dropped (compared with 4% of Jewish respondents), while a number of fans (8% of non-Jewish respondents and 9% of Jewish respondents) specifically identified that it was now time to phase out the use of the term, with fans citing a number of different reasons as to why. One fan clarified that “even if there is just one fan – Spurs or non-Spurs – who is genuinely offended by the use of the term, then that is one fan too many.”

Another fan explained, “Whether used in the context of direct or anti-Semitic abuse, or as a kind of pre-emptive strike against such abuse, ‘Yid’ retains a negative and aggressive quality. For that reason alone I would urge Spurs fans, whatever their motive, not to use it.”

Notably, 6% of Jewish supporters, used the confidentiality of this consultation to identify that they found the term to be genuinely offensive (compared with less than 1% of non-Jewish respondents). One fan commented “I am not Jewish, but I find the use of the term offensive, embarrassing and inappropriate in the modern world.” While another fan explained “I fully appreciate that in most cases the Y-word is used to describe a Spurs fan, but to those of us who are Jewish and certainly to me it is offensive.”

This consultation has shown that many supporters acknowledge that the use of the word needs to be re-assessed and that, whilst our fans and the law recognise the importance of context, ultimately context is not the only consideration.

We would ask all our fans to give due consideration to the varied sentiments and opinions expressed, in order to ensure that the support of our Club is inclusive and forward–looking.

Click here, to view Populus’ Methodology Statement

Click here, to view data from the fan consultation

Click here, to view data from the sentiment analysis