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Y-word consultation update

Mon 16 December 2019, 10:19|Tottenham Hotspur

At the beginning of August, the Club commenced its consultation with fans on their use of the Y-word. We received more than 23,000 responses and we can now share the results...

Our recent consultation shows that:

  • 33% of respondents use the Y-word ‘regularly’ in a footballing context
  • 18% of respondents that do not use the term in a footballing context consider it ‘offensive’, with the number rising to 35% among Jewish respondents
  • Only 12% of respondents would use the term outside of a footballing context
  • 94% of respondents acknowledge the Y-word can be considered a racist term against a Jewish person
  • Almost half of all respondents would prefer to see supporters choose to chant the Y-word less or stop using it altogether

We have previously undertaken consultation with supporters around this matter and have always closely monitored any debate that has taken place on this subject. We have recently received an increase in correspondence from supporters who have conveyed their concerns to us about its continued use at our stadium and we are conscious that sentiment can alter over time. We have, therefore, undertaken this latest consultation to assess if and how attitudes amongst our fan base have changed.

Our most recent online consultation was sent to all Executive Members, Season Ticket holders, One Hotspur + Members and match attending One Hotspur Members, as well as those affiliated to Supporters Clubs (both domestic and international), and a sample of non-matchday attenders from both our One Hotspur Members and non-Members database, ensuring we accumulated a substantial, robust and representative set of responses from across our fanbase.

We should like to thank all those supporters who took the time to participate in this study and for providing such detailed, enlightening and honest feedback.

Fan response

We received more than 23,000 responses in this consultation. In total, 95% were either a Season Ticket holder, an Executive Level or One Hotspur Member and 97% of all respondents had attended at least one match per season. A total of 11% stated that they were Jewish.


For many of our supporters, context has always been key in justifying their use of the Y-word and that pattern appears to continue in the latest research with only 12% of respondents answering that they use the term outside of a footballing context.

As illustrated in the table below, of the 88% that responded that they do not use the word outside of a footballing context, more than half reasoned it was inappropriate (66%).

Supporters were given the option of choosing more than one of the answers to this question with many of those that selected ‘Other’ explaining that it should only be used in a ‘Spurs context’ and that they would favour the term ‘Jewish’ rather than using the Y-word outside of a football context.

Conversely, when respondents were asked if they used the Y-word in a footballing context the number rose considerably, even though 94% of the total response base acknowledged that ‘some people consider the Y-word to be a racist term against a Jewish person.’

Of the total number of respondents, 33% answered that they ‘regularly’ use the term in a footballing context, while 41% answered ‘occasionally’.

These figures are more evenly split among Jewish respondents with 36% ‘regularly’ chanting, 30% ‘occasionally’ chanting and 34% choosing not to chant the term.

More than one in four of our respondents do not chant the Y-word in a footballing context at all and this rises to one in three among the Jewish base, with almost half of all feeling it was inappropriate to use.

More than a third of those respondents who are Jewish and do not chant the Y-word in a football context also stated that they considered the term to be offensive (35%) – almost double that of the total respondents (18%) that chose this as an answer.

All of the above underlines just how complex the nature of this issue is and these varying viewpoints are illustrated in the written responses that we received from respondents too.

One fan aged between 35 and 44 wrote: “While the intention of Spurs fans is good, and supportive of Jews, it is still a word that could cause offence,” with a different respondent in the 35 to 44 age range explaining, “I am Jewish and find the regular use of the Y-word offensive. I don’t believe most Spurs fans understand its connotations and history.”

Another aged between 55 and 64 added: “I like the tribal way that the term is changed but being a black man I would like to know whether the Jewish community is offended by its use at our matches before I’d even consider using it.”

Historic links

The Club has always made clear in communications, based on previous research around this topic, that ‘the Y-word was historically adopted by Spurs fans as a defence mechanism in order to 'own' the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse at that time in the 1970s.’

Those Spurs fans who would have experienced such abuse during this era, and would have therefore adopted this term, would likely fall into the 45 + age bracket in this latest consultation, yet the age profile of respondents who have a propensity to chant the Y-word in a footballing context ‘regularly’ appears to be far lower in our results. In fact, the volume of those that answered that they do chant this ‘regularly’ appears to drop gradually as the age groups increase, while the numbers of those who choose not to use the term at all increases as the age rises, peaking at more than 70% for those 75 or over, as demonstrated in the below chart.

Respondents were also split as to whether the use of the Y-word actually continued to deflect anti- Semitic abuse in the present day, as was the intention for fans originally adopting the term in the 1970s and 1980s. Of those that did feel it deflected anti-Semitic abuse, it was the 18-24 age bracket that were the most likely to agree with this sentiment (almost 70% within this age bracket believing it does deflect anti-Semitic abuse), in line with having a greater propensity to chant the Y-word.

Of those respondents that stated they do chant the Y-word in a footballing context, whether ‘regularly’ or ‘occasionally’ (74%), one in five of them did, however, feel it actually played a part in attracting abuse from rival fans.

In total, 30% of respondents felt the use of the Y-word played a role in attracting abuse from rival fans, with the number rising to 37% among respondents that are Jewish.

It would therefore appear that the history and the motivations behind why fans adopted the term in the first place are being lost over time, with many fans today using it solely as a means to identify themselves as a Spurs supporter.

One fan aged 25-34 wrote: “Until my very late teens I had no idea it had historic roots to the Jewish community or that it had been considered a racist slur. It simply meant Spurs to me,” while another aged between 18 and 24 admitted, “My knowledge of the meaning beyond being related to Spurs is non-existent.”

One supporter aged 45-54 explained: “I always thought the chant was positive and supportive towards the Jewish community but if this offends then I would not use it in future.”

Such response levels as above may also explain why almost half of the total response base think the use of the Y-word by Spurs fans contributes to a lack of clarity in terms of what is now considered as anti-Semitic abuse.

Future use

In the consultation, the Club included a number of excerpts from a wide range of opinions expressed on the subject of the Y-word in football. Supporters were asked after reading them whether it would change the way they use the term going forward.

A total of 11% selected that they would now stop using it going forward, while almost a quarter (23%) stated ‘I was already aware of the offence it may cause and that is why I do not use it.’ A total of 16% preferred to choose ‘Other’ as their response with text answers including that it was their instinctive chant during periods of high emotion in games, they need to give the question greater thought, action should be taken only if the term is used negatively, guidance should be sought from Jewish Spurs fans on how they feel about the word before they can make a personal decision and being prepared to stop chanting it altogether if other fans chose not to use it anymore or if the Club asked fans to stop.

When respondents were asked whether they would like to see the use of the Y-word change on matchdays, almost half answered that they would like to see fans choose to chant it less (23%) or stop using it altogether (22%). Among Jewish respondents, 42% answered that they would like to see a change, with 26% favouring that fans stop using it and 16% preferring fans to chant it less.

In addition to this, among those that chant the Y-word in a footballing context ‘regularly’ or ‘occasionally’, 30% would like to see a change with 23% preferring it was chanted less and 7% favouring fans stopped using the term.

One supporter aged 45-54 commented: “I know exactly why we chant it and back in the 80’s it seemed justified. It doesn’t today. It draws attention to something that should be consigned to history.”

The sentiment among respondents in terms of reassessing the use of the Y-word is fairly evenly spread, demonstrating how split they are on this subject. Among the total response base, 21% strongly disagree that the use of the Y-word needs to be reassessed, 23% disagree, 20% are neutral, 22% agree, with 13% answering that they strongly agree.

One supporter from the 35-44 age band contributed the below when filling in the consultation:
“I’m Jewish and I understand how offensive the word is yet I do accept that it is used in a very positive frame of reference by fellow Spurs fans. We need an alternative but I don’t know what that is, I can’t see Spurs fans shouting ‘you’re Spurs, you’re Spurs’ at a new player as a replacement for ‘Yiddo, Yiddo’ but we need to find a way to change it. I know this doesn’t give you answers, just my very confused view on how we solve an almost impossible situation. I do also think it’s the responsibility of other clubs to stop the racist chants being directed at us as well.”

Moving forward

We have always maintained that a reassessment of the use of the Y-word by Spurs fans can only take place effectively within an environment where there is also a zero tolerance approach taken towards real anti-Semitic abuse. It is the responsibility of every Club and the authorities to deal with this and take unequivocal action to stamp it out. We shall be urging stronger action be taken.

This latest consultation amongst our fans comes at a time when there is an increased sensitivity about the use of words and behaviours that can be considered offensive and unacceptable.

There is a strong history and reason as to why the Y-word was initially adopted by Spurs fans in the 1970s and 1980s, however the age of those that use it most often now does not correlate with those that were victims of anti-Semitic abuse in the first place. In addition, the responses indicate that few believe the use of the Y-word is effective in deflecting anti-Semitic abuse.

Sentiment around this term appears to be changing among the fanbase – there is a recognition of the offence the Y-word can cause and that a footballing context alone does not justify its continued use.

This consultation has shown that a particular number of our supporters are offended by the term and almost half of all respondents indicated a clear desire to see fans use the Y-word less or stop altogether.

We pride ourselves on being an inclusive and forward-thinking Club and these findings indicate the awareness our fans have of current sensitivities and a willingness to reconsider the appropriateness of the continued use of this term.

We shall be organising a series of focus groups, giving supporters the chance to meet and exchange opinions with fellow fans with views from across the spectrum on this matter. Those who expressed an interest in the consultation of participating will be contacted in due course.

We should like to thank all of our fans who took the time to be part of this consultation and for the thousands of considered opinions we have received as we look to give due consideration to all members of our Spurs family.