Why obscene chanting in football is not just a Premier League problem

Liverpool on a European nightHas anybody ever seen an off-the-ball incident in League One or League Two that the referee and his assistants had not spotted and thought, ‘ouch, if that was in the Premier League the replays would have picked that up?’ In this instance, and it happened recently to Stoke’s Andy Wilkinson, the player will receive a retrospective ban, whereas realistically in the lower leagues the same fate wouldn’t apply.

Like Premier League players, Premier League supporters suffer from the same sort of fate. This applies when Premier League teams are charged over tasteless chanting.

My point here is that tasteless chanting occurs throughout all four leagues in England, but it only gets recognised and reprimanded retrospectively in Premier League games. It was interesting that in the build-up to the Liverpool/United game last week,  the media seemed intent on finding some sort of dirt on whether they could hear tasteless chanting or not, from if we’re honest, is from a large minority of people who both sets of supporters don’t want to be associated with anyway.

I was at a League One game last week and when an Asian man dressed in a chef’s uniform walked across behind the goal and the fans started chanting ‘Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan.’ I couldn’t help think when I was at the game was that if those chants would have been heard in a Premier League match, then it would have been highlighted in the media.

Likewise, before yesterday’s East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby County, Forest winger Andy Reid had urged Derby fans to stop the sick chants about former Forest owner Nigel Doughty who died, aged 54 of a cardiac arrest in February. Last season’s derby was marred by sick chanting of Doughty’s death. There seemed to be minimal focus on the sick chanting building up to that game compared to what there was at Anfield the week before.

These examples I have just given are nothing new in football. I reckon that at some stage in the past ten years, every one of the 72 Football League clubs has chanted a song a little bit below the belt. The overexposure in the Premier League hides away a problem that is genuinely rife in football.

However, because of the obsession with the Premier League (and rightly so), this means that when issues are discussed in football they are generally in relation to what is happening in the Premier League. For example, a current hot topic this week has been in relation to diving,  not diving in League Two, but diving in the Premier League because this is the league everyone can relate to because of its media exposure.

It cannot be case that Premier League supporters are of a completely alien and different social and economic make-up to the supporters of the 72 Football League clubs, it just so happens that these fans support teams in the top flight and as a result are more liable to be criticised as a result of being in the constant media spotlight.

The key point is that Football needs to come to terms with the fact that incidents of obscene chanting are not isolated to the Premier League.

So what are the solutions? Well the first thing to note is that it is difficult to control what people say, especially when they are anonymous in the crowd. Additionally, we don’t want a return to the dark decade of the 1980’s where a fractious relationship between the supporters and the police existed and there is more focus on what’s happening in the stands rather than what’s happening in the stands.

The most achievable solution to overcoming a lingering problem with tasteless chanting is setting up a body as a means of raising awareness of the matter, similarly to what the Kick It Out! campaign does to raise awareness of racism in football. In doing so, the body can raise a general appreciation of an issue to which I believe is understated  in football.

Rather a suggestion than a solution is for there to be more exposure of Football League games. Perhaps then there would be more of a burning desire within the collective football family to undermine the minority of fans at every club who tarnish the clubs reputation.

I would love to hear people’s thoughts on this. Am I overstating the issue of obscene chanting in grounds or do you like me feel that it is an issue that has been overlooked in football and subsequently needs addressing?

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Matt Read

Follow Matt on twitter @Matt_of_the_day

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