I saw a video clip the other day of right-wing demagogue Tommy Robinson/Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon/Andrew McMaster/Paul Harris (delete as applicable) declaring his love for and affiliation to the football club I’ve loved, for better or for worse, through thin and thinner, for over 43 years. Yes, folks, Tommy Robinson, or whatever you might care to call him, is apparently a Leeds United fan – at least he was, anyway, at some time in the past. Some reading this will be delighted to hear such tidings. Far more, I sincerely hope, will be horrified and disgusted.
I’ve had plenty to say about “Tommeh” (as his acolytes are wont to refer to him) in other places than this blog, at various times in the past. His views are anathema to me, not simply because I’m a socialist, or because I believe in equality, or because I’m against randomly opportunist racial stereotyping – but because I can see the blindingly obvious defects in his character, as could anyone who’s not utterly in denial as to what truly motivates this deeply silly and reprehensible excuse for an “activist”. To have him associate himself with Leeds United, a club once itself mired in the filth of racism, is deeply repugnant to anyone who witnessed the collaboration between club and fans in the Eighties to rid Elland Road of the racists and clear the fascist stench that had polluted the atmosphere of LS11.
Back in those dismal bad old days, the club and the players representing it on the field were going through bad times. Suffering from a post-Super Leeds malaise, languishing in the second tier and playing to dismally small crowds, United had problems enough of its own, without being exploited by far right groups as a vehicle for their perverted views. And yet it was so, as anyone who walked up and down Lowfields Road every match day could confirm. Right wing snotrags like The Flag were sold openly while the police looked on disinterestedly, the stadium echoed to the sound of massed morons chanting songs of hatred and intolerance, black players ran the gauntlet of ignorance and prejudice. These were times when the likes of Tommeh felt most at home down Elland Road way, although Robinson, being born in 1982, was destined to miss out. Because things were changing for the better at Leeds, both on the pitch and off.
The advent of the fanzine culture, with its more egalitarian outlook, together with a proliferation of football-affiliated anti-Nazi groups, made a real difference to the ambience at Leeds. Gradually, the right-wing cretins and thugs were marginalised, and the club played its part, actively discouraging any racist presence and making a crop of signings who were not only committed and talented – they were black. The likes of Vince Hilaire and Noel Blake ventured where many black footballers had understandably feared to tread by joining Leeds United, and they found themselves feted as heroes by a newly-dominant type of Leeds fan, bringing a revolutionary tone to what was still the most vociferous and committed crowd in football. All of a sudden, the racists were in full retreat at Elland Road, and the foundations were laid for a brighter and more successful future. Soon after Hilaire and Blake, Chris Fairclough, Chris Whyte and the Wallace twins arrived and, only a few years after some of the worst times in United’s history, they were once again England’s Finest; the Last Champions.
That’s a proud legacy, a positive tale of enlightenment banishing ignorance and prejudice to bring success and transform a previously moribund football club. It’s the kind of legacy that Tommy Robinson, and those others of his nasty ilk, would love to trample back into the noisome slime from which it emerged. Well, no thanks. Leeds United has been a far better club, even in our most difficult days on the pitch, than the complacent and decadent outfit the racists seized for their own thirty-odd years ago. Even now, as we struggle back to the top with memories of Super Leeds far in the past, we’re in a much better place, simply because the whole outlook of the place is brighter and more intelligent than it used to be. We still have the minority of sick individuals clinging on and claiming to be Leeds fans, but they’re out of the mainstream now, regarded as oddities by proper football fans, irrelevant to United and football in a broader sense. And that’s how it should stay.
I’m open to a discussion about this, because I know Robinson divides opinion (although my view is that the division is between enlightenment and ignorance). Still, I’m not here to close down debate, and any comment that isn’t abusive will be published. But the fact is that we don’t need the likes of Tommeh down at Elland Road. Let him spout his weasel words about how it was his club, it’s certainly not the case now. It might have been at one time, but he was born too late for that. We’ve moved on, Tommeh. We’ve got no time for you, or your perverted world view.
Kindly go away – and stay away.