Harry Redknapp 'disgusted' at racist 'filth' as West Ham issue life ban
West Ham United issued their first life ban to a supporter following the anti-Semitic chanting towards Tottenham fans at White Hart Lane on the day that the former manager of both clubs, Harry Redknapp, labelled the fans that sing such "filth" as "cowards".
The Football Association also acted on Monday, opening its investigation into the reported anti-Semitism. Both West Ham and Tottenham last night pledged complete cooperation with the authorities, while the Metropolitan Police responded to a complaint of their own.
Redknapp, who has just taken over at Queen's Park Rangers, said that the level of abuse directed at managers and other supporters had reached dangerous levels. "When they [fans] are on their own they are probably different people but when they are together it's filth, it's disgusting," the 65-year-old said. "People have to stand there and take it. They chant at managers, at players, at each other, it's nothing to do with football. You grow up watching football because you love the game, but if you asked half of them what happened in the game they probably wouldn't know; they're probably not even watching it. They're chanting at each other. We've all had it plenty of it at various times. They are just cowards who get in a group."
The police issued cautions on Sunday to two West Ham fans for racially aggravated gesturing, thought to be Nazi salutes, inside White Hart Lane. West Ham confirmed last night that they had identified one of those fans and issued him with a life ban from the club. The other individual can expect the same response. West Ham's Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun said he was "very disappointed" to hear the "embarrassing" chants.
The FA also confirmed last night that it was investigating the reports of abusive chanting, with the FA governance department in touch with both clubs.
Tottenham promised to provide "100 per cent assistance" to the FA's investigation and Spurs will send the CCTV footage to the FA to help identify the culprits. West Ham also expect to receive a copy of the footage to help with their enquiries. "We are currently compiling a full report for the Football Association," a Tottenham club spokesman said, "and shall be submitting this with all our evidence including the relevant CCTV footage."
West Ham also have access to the records of who bought which tickets in the away end at White Hart Lane, although not all fans sit in their allocated seats. The club were keen to impress last night that the shameful conduct was limited to pockets of their fans, but that those responsible will be banned.
"West Ham United will take the strongest possible action against any of their supporters," a club statement said, "including enforcing life bans from the club, that are found guilty of behaviour which is categorically not condoned by West Ham United.
"During the 46 games in the Championship last season, West Ham United had zero arrests for racism or violence, so while we are surprised to see such reports today, we will examine any available evidence of such conduct thoroughly and take the appropriate action."
Benayoun expressed his sadness last night. "I was very disappointed to hear some of the songs yesterday and it was embarrassing," he wrote on Twitter. "But we need to remember that it was made by a minority group of fans and I'm sure the FA together with West Ham United will do everything to find and punish them." Five other West Ham fans were arrested outside White Hart Lane on Sunday for unrelated incidents.
The Metropolitan Police received a complaint by telephone yesterday morning. It did not come from the Society of Black Lawyers, who have made high-profile complaints about racism in the recent past, including over the use of "yid" by Spurs fans at White Hart Lane. The Board of Deputies of British Jews urged the FA to take action against those guilty of singing about the Holocaust.
"Clearly there is either a lack of understanding or a lack of compassion within some sections of the British football world about these issues," a statement said, "a lack of understanding or compassion which needs to be addressed."