Tag Archives: racism

Too Many Leeds United “Fans” Forget That Saiz Matters – by Rob Atkinson

Samuel-Saiz-672176

Saiz leaves early after zero dribbles and one spit

Characteristically, Leeds United has contrived to make a drama out of a crisis, compounding the humiliation of an FA Cup Third Round exit at minnows Newport by adding the embarrassment of an on-pitch spitting scandal, as well as the six-match loss of star player Samu Sáiz. To make matters even worse, the intellectually-challenged end of the Whites’ support then took to Twitter with the express intention, so it seemed, of unleashing their long-repressed bigotry and incipient racism by attacking Sáiz in the worst kind of Daily Mail-reading Colonel Blimp-inspired terms. It made for very unedifying reading, even for Twitter after one of Leeds’ frequent bad days at the office.

There’s no getting around the fact that spitting at a sporting opponent is a disgusting matter, deserving of punishment and not to be tolerated – or even mitigated, if it comes to that. It initially seemed an odd affair to me, with some confusion and delay surrounding the red card in the immediate aftermath of Newport’s late winner. But Sáiz appears now to have admitted, acknowledged and apologised for his transgression, so that’s that. He’s bang to rights and indefensible, he’ll have to do his time, repent at leisure and make sure he sticks to his vow that this will never happen again.

Incidentally, and particularly for those who think I’m an uncritical Sáiz apologist, his conduct has worried me before, and I’ve gone into print hoping he’d see the error of his ways. This was over an early season tendency to wave imaginary cards when fouled, something that risked attracting the ref’s attention negatively, and a habit I’ve always hated. So I don’t see Samu as any sort of paragon of virtue; even so, some of the stick and abuse he’s received from alleged Leeds fans since the Case of the Newport Spit has been sickening in the extreme – decorum prohibits the reproduction of many of the remarks here. Suffice to say that there’s been a nasty, racist overtone in the murkier regions of the Leeds Twitter hashtag, many of the boneheads who like to comment there seeming to have forgotten what the little Spanish wizard has contributed to our faltering season so far.

It’s not big and it’s not clever, but then again, that just about sums up some of our Twitter knuckle-draggers. Sadly, the temptation to jump aboard a Brexiteer anti-“foreign signing” bandwagon appears to have been just too much to resist for many of these hard-of-thinking opportunists, with some of them engaged for hours on end in trying to outdo their IQ-minus cronies in a competition to see who could be the most offensively tasteless in their treatment of United’s best player this season.

The subtext emerging was of a groundswell of opposition, again mainly at the thicker end of United’s online adherents, to the idea of signing non-British players in the first place. Some Leeds fans, apparently, will not be happy until United’s first team consists of blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan stereotypes, goose-stepping their way towards the lower leagues with the Sieg Heils echoing from the stands – a harking back to the early and mid-eighties. But those days are gone; the continental and global lads are here to stay, they will continue to provide the best hopes of success – and the Twitter and other social media morons are welcome to crawl back under the stones from which they should never, in these more enlightened times, emerge.

It’s to be hoped that this will be a storm in a teacup, that United will safely negotiate the enforced and unfortunate absence of Sáiz – and that, when he returns, he will be given the warm welcome that his value to the team deserves. And that will probably be the case, because Leeds will surely move to cover for the lad’s loss, while the bulk of the United support are a silent yet match-day raucous majority, who will always be behind the men in the shirts, whether they hail from Selby or Spain.

Samu’s been a silly lad, but many, many young footballers are guilty of that; he’s not the first, he’ll not be the last, and it’s got absolutely bugger-all to do with his nationality. So, enough of all that nonsense. What we need now is to get stuck in as a United Leeds for the rest of the season, that’s boardroom, management, players and fans – and put this sorry incident behind us. The rest of the transfer window promises to be interesting or maybe even exciting, and meanwhile there’s a formidable array of opposition waiting to tackle a Samu-less Leeds. Let’s stick together, ignore the ten-a-penny haters – and show them all what we’re really capable of.

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Racial Abuse Row to Hit Bradford City?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Garath McCleary complains to a match official about abuse from the Bradford support

Garath McCleary complains to a match official about abuse from the Bradford support

As a fan of Leeds United, I always get an incredulous reaction if I highlight racist behaviour or racial abuse from other quarters. Leeds fans simply have that name – and mud that sticky just sticks like hell.

But, in common with a surprisingly vast majority of United fans, I’m a non-racist football supporter who is always looking to root out examples of such ignorance and uncivilised behaviour. And there might just be a scandalous example coming out of the Reading v Bradford City FA Cup replay, covered live by BBC1.

One of the incidents captured by the Beeb’s cameras towards the end of the first half was a fan in the Bradford end apparently directing some less than complimentary remarks loudly in the direction of young Garath McCleary, Reading’s second goal-scorer tonight. McCleary reacted with such anger and distress that there has to be a suspicion of racial abuse – given that an irate football fan and a black footballer were involved in what was clearly a flashpoint. McCleary seemed to be urged by the assistant ref to report the matter to officials in the tunnel area. That advice appeared to be reinforced as the teams went off at the interval, with McCleary still obviously upset.

As this is written, Bradford have just gone 0-3 down and appear to be facing the end of their Cup adventure – particularly as they have also had a player dismissed. But that may yet turn out to be the least of the Bantams’ worries on an evening when disgrace threatens to engulf them.

There may well be more to be heard and said about this in the next few hours and days. It emerged today that a fan was arrested and ejected from the ground at half time.

Leeds Blog-Hating Fan Forum Abandons “WACCOE” Name – by Rob Atkinson

The new Title - can YOU detect the edit?

The new Forum Title – can you detect the edit?

The formerly half-decent Leeds United fans’ forum WACCOE will soon be no more, it has been announced. In a shock move designed to align the site’s core values more closely with the bulk of its readership, it has been decided that a name change is necessary. The old WACCOE name, it is thought, no longer represents the desired direction of what used to be regarded as an invaluable resource for fans of the Yorkshire giants. Instead, in an attempt to sum up the collective IQ of the readership, the title THICKOE has been painstakingly selected.

A spokesman for THICKOE stated, “WACCOE actually stands for We Are the Champions, Champions Of Europe.  Well, sort of. There’s a “Tuh” in there, for The. We weren’t quite sure what to do with that. But some of us think it’s silly to go on about the past, we wanted something more relevant to US as a group.” When asked what the new acronym THICKOE stands for, our hapless source – southerner Mr Iain Monkey – was unable to help. “I’m not sure about that either, to be honest with you. All suggestions are welcome, it’s a detail we overlooked. We just thought it looked a bit similar to the old one, and that it summed up what we’re all about as a group of Leeds fans who like to swear a lot, spout neo-fascist views, laugh immoderately at each other’s jokes for the purpose of mutual reassurance and – most importantly of all – try to out-do each other for the attention and approval of our betters.” Mr Monkey furrowed his brow so that the “Sieg Heil” tattoo on his forehead almost disappeared. “We did wonder about saying it stands for The Honestly Independent Cornucopia of Knowledge On Everything – but a few of the lads had a bit of a lip-tremble going on at that one – thought it sounded too much like your own site, which all our members have to promise – really, heavy duty stuff, swearing on oaf and everyfink –  to hate and ignore just as hatefully and ignorantly as they possibly can, which is a lot. So it’s a lickle bit of a nawty one – a dilemma, if you like.

There is some bewildered anxiety too, it would appear, in the re-branded site’s moderation team. A source close to the very top told us that they had tried recently to tailor the forum as per the requirements of its more prominently-lower-jawed members. “We’ve done our best with this,” Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was advised. “We’ve tried to eliminate anyone – as you will know yourself, Rob, as a banned person – who’s kicked up too much of a fuss over the site’s support for core issues. This includes the Coalition government and our ‘firm but fair’ stance on asylum-seekers (kick them out), benefit claimants (starve them, then kick them out), teachers (aaaarrrgh), the Labour Party (starve them, then shoot them, then kick them out, then shoot them again). We feel that this brings us broadly into line with our most devoted readership, some of whose best friends are foreign types of a non-Caucasian hue. The name change is simply the logical conclusion of this -ahem – refinement of our product direction”

Mr Monkey also issued this reminder to those who may have given up in despair on a declining fansite. Former and lapsed readers of the THICKOE formerly WACCOE site, he insisted, are urged to return and see how things have come on. “We’re going great guns, honestly.  We had some really hard and cool and street nicknames for the first head coach this season – we called him Whackaday and Hockalot and, ooh, lots of others. It was really brilliant and so edgy, lots of reassuring peer approval and big-lad chortling. And anyone who disagreed was silenced, so we didn’t even have to worry about intelligent people spoiling things for the rest of us.”

It’s expected that THICKOE will finally be going live in time for next season; in the meantime the old WACCOE brand will be discreetly phased out. “We’ve made a start already,” said Mr. Monkey. “If you look carefully at the site banner (pictured above) there’s been a bit of subtle editing going on – though you’d be forgiven for not noticing! No expense has been spared to ensure that the new brand is unmistakable, but that there won’t be anything too unfamiliar for our readers, most of whom haven’t been reading for all that long, have low, sloping foreheads – and they can feel a little insecure, with distressing consequences.”

By this point, Mr Monkey himself was shifting uncomfortably in his seat, a nervous tic rapidly developing in one bloodshot eye. “I shouldn’t really be talking to you, you know,” he quavered. “The THICKOE lot really hate you. We all do in fact. You’re always having a go and calling us thick and rightwing. That might be true, but it’s not nice to say so, is it?? And you delete any comments that don’t say nice things about you, so all of our well-hard swearing and the frets we fretten you with, that is all just wasted. And all the nice comments you get are well fake, innit, they are all really obviously all writ by the same geezer, that’s YOU, so don’t think we don’t know what you are all about, so there.” Mr Monkey rose at this point and flounced out, ignoring our polite offer of another coffee and some fairy cakes.

Mr. Monkey is 78, but his IQ is only 50.

Cameron Jerome Disappointed NOT to Have Been Racially Abused? – by Rob Atkinson

Bellusci & Jerome - he said, she said...

Bellusci & Jerome – he said, she said…

To the surprise of many Leeds United fans, long inured to the habit of those wielding any sort of power finding against their favourites, Whites defender Giuseppe Bellusci was cleared of a charge that he racially abused Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome. It was an accusation that had been hanging over Bellusci for too many months; one can only speculate about the effect that the ongoing issue has had on his ability to conduct a career in professional football. And yet it is still Cameron Jerome, a man who has not been unwilling in the past to fling accusations of this nature at fellow professionals, who seems to see himself as the sole victim here.

In the end, common sense prevailed. The eventual verdict amounts to a slightly insipid “not proven”, but – as I had previously speculated – it is difficult to see how the outcome could have been anything else. With one man’s word standing against another’s consistent denials (and alternative take on what was actually said) and absolutely no third-party corroboration one way or the other, it is clear which way the verdict should have gone – although there is always many a potential slip ‘twixt cup and lip. There is no reason, either, to conclude that the decision reflects ill on Jerome; there is no suggestion, after all, that he has been anything other than scrupulously truthful in his account of what he thought he heard. The outcome follows on from the acceptance of the panel that there was a misunderstanding here, aggravated by the language barrier. Unable to prove either man wrong or false in his account, what else could this judicially-convened body reasonably do?

Jerome, though, is not persuaded and feels hard done by. Possibly he feels that his honesty has been impugned, in which case somebody with a better grasp of the technicalities should perhaps sit him down and gently explain. But there appears to be some resolve on the “disappointed” Jerome’s part to pursue the matter further, if at all possible. In this, he may well be backed by the “Kick It Out” movement, who have hinted at support for the miffed striker after due consideration of the reasons behind the decision.

Kick It Out is a worthy campaign for positive good in the modern game. But are they really serving anyone’s best interests in a case where, regardless of what was actually said by both parties, it will be impossible to prove the matter one way or the other? Their offer of support to Jerome is laudable enough in itself, but it would be better directed, surely, towards explaining to the guy the difficulties of proving something without any supporting evidence – and particularly where there is a reasonable basis for supposing that neither man is lying and a misunderstanding is the real culprit here. Instead, the stance of both the alleged injured party and his potential supporters appears to be a determination to keep open this can of worms, come what may.

The fact is that, in the heat of battle, with native tongues angrily resorted to, it’s entirely reasonable and understandable that whatever was said had its intended meaning lost in translation. Bellusci says he shouted in Italian that he would “black Jerome’s eye” after suffering a foul by the Norwich forward. It is this altercation that is pictured above. The Italian word for black is “nero” – it’s easy to see how an English speaker might hear that as “negro”. That’s the word Jerome thought he heard, and that – naturally – formed the whole basis for his subsequent complaint, which he has been acknowledged to have made quite properly and conducted impeccably. There is a minor dispute here about the word used, but beyond a one letter difference that doesn’t seem to be a crucial point – and it comes under the umbrella of “misunderstanding”. Only the meaning, or sense, is substantially disputed. It meant one thing coming from Bellusci’s angry mouth, so we are told – and quite another as heard by Jerome’s outraged ear. Therein lies the crux of the misunderstanding (which cannot be disproved) – and that is why this decision was – had to be – correct.

If Jerome has any common-sense at all, and does not want to be thought of as pursuing a vendetta in pushing an unprovable point of view – if he does not, in short, want to be thought guilty of that dread phrase “playing the race card” – then he had better swallow his well-publicised disappointment and get on with playing football as he is paid to do. On the facts and the evidence, or lack thereof, there is little else he can feasibly do. The Kick It Out campaign, whatever their understandable zeal in wishing to root out racists and see them dealt with, are not serving anyone’s best interests in advising their man otherwise – least of all Cameron Jerome himself.

Massimo Cellino went on record during the long wait for this matter to be decided as saying that, if Bellusci were to be found guilty of racism, then he’d be out of the club. As simple and unambiguous as that. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that Leeds United FC has anything other than a zero tolerance policy where racism is concerned. Not every club could say as much. Leeds, let us not forget, had in Albert Johanneson the first black player in an FA Cup Final; they had a black player (Gerry Francis) in the almost entirely white British 1950s – and they supported such an effective anti-racism campaign in the 80s that the club virtually rid itself of its extreme minority, who were reduced from a vocal force in and around the Elland Road stadium to disconsolate pariahs, shunned and marginalised by genuine Leeds supporters.

If – despite the “not proven” verdict – Giuseppe Bellusci did harbour the evil of racism deep within himself, then he would have chosen the wrong club to play for in Leeds, where black players have been a vital part of successive squads ever since the pioneering contributions of Terry Connor, Noel Blake, Vince Hilaire and others, over the past four decades. If Bellusci were of this unacceptable mind, he would be found out and turfed out by the club. I am proud to be able to claim this for Leeds, a club where Nelson Mandela’s hero, Lucas Radebe, has attained a God-like status, almost literally worshipped to this day by thousands of Leeds fans for whom his black skin is either irrelevant or a matter of defiant pride. Certain other clubs are demonstrably a long, long way behind Leeds in this respect.

Let us move on now, for all that is good in the game. Let Bellusci and Jerome get on with their respective careers, let Kick It Out continue with their vital work and their increasingly educational and beneficial influence on football in this country. This case has been an unedifying spectacle for too long now, giving hope to those with unsavoury agendas and casting doubt on the ability of my club and the game as a whole to thrive in their current proudly multi-cultural complexion. It’s gone on far too long and it’s ended more honourably than might have been the case.

Disappointed or not, Cameron Jerome – and, by extension, Norwich City – it now behoves you to accept the outcome and move on. Let that process begin now.

FA Charge Italian Bellusci With Racism…for Speaking in Italian – by Rob Atkinson

Bellusci: "Posso negare il razzismo!"

Bellusci: “Posso negare il razzismo!

The latest news on the latest Cameron Jerome “racial abuse” claims: Leeds defender Giuseppe Bellusci will attend in person to put his version of events to an FA disciplinary commission tomorrow – let’s hope that he gets a fair hearing and doesn’t become a victim of “antipodean marsupial justice”. I won’t hold my breath – although the impartiality of football authorities’ judicial proceedings IS coming on in leaps and bounds…

There was a time when corroborative evidence from a third party was required – or at least highly desirable – in order for a charge as serious as racial abuse to be brought against a football player or other alleged offender. Rumour has it that, in some areas of footballing and other jurisprudence, that may even still be the case. But this is Leeds United, so those troublesome little considerations needn’t apply – or so it increasingly seems. 

Whatever the moral and legal ins and outs, the FA have looked into a complaint by Cameron Jerome of Norwich City FC against Giuseppe Bellusci of Leeds. Jerome alleges racist language. Bellusci hotly denies any such thing. Who is to say which man is telling the truth? It could even be that the whole thing is an unfortunate misunderstanding across the language barrier – see below. But, leaving all of these problems aside, the FA are prepared to make a case of it, despite the hideous difficulty of establishing the truth when Party A alleges something, Party B denies it (Beh, è il vostro diritto di negare questa accusa, Giuseppe, non è vero?)* – and there is no Party C to swear true from false.

* The Italian phrase above means (as nearly as Google translate allows me to render it) “Well, it’s your right to deny this accusation, Giuseppe, isn’t it?” You may notice how I have subtly emphasised the word “negare“, meaning “deny”. Apparently, one plank of Bellusci’s defence is that, after being elbowed by Mr Jerome and then being treated to a volley of ripe abuse by that gentleman, he remarked to him quite calmly, in Italian, whilst pointing at his own neck “You can’t deny the elbow”. 

If this is true, and if Jerome (whose Italian may not be exactly fluent as Serie A clubs have managed somehow to resist signing him thus far) has simply mistaken the word “negare” as something racially sinister – then, in the absence of any corroborative evidence either way, it’s very hard to see how a fair-minded, competent authority could possibly find against Signor Bellusci. That’s not to say, of course, that the FA will have any such difficulty, particularly as this is another golden opportunity for the football powers that be to have another swipe at nasty old Leeds, much to the delight of rival fans, gutter press hacks and other such morons everywhere. But that plank of the Leeds man’s defence appears, on the face of it, to be fairly stout.

It’s a pretty dicey situation, this. These are troubled, even shark-infested waters. The FA may feel that racism is such a topical hot potato that, where an allegation is made, a charge should follow as night follows day, lest they be thought of as sweeping things under the carpet. That, however, doesn’t entitle them to dispense with good old English precepts like “innocent until proven guilty” – nor yet the even older Latin one about prima facie evidence.

In the glaring absence of any corroboration whatsoever, and with the intriguing possibility of a tragic misunderstanding as outlined above, it’s genuinely difficult to see how the charge against Bellusci can be proven – even under the less legally exacting ‘balance of probabilities’ test that applies in non-criminal cases. Or, to put my paranoid hat back on, might the allegedly august governing body hold that, as the player is on the books of the Damned United, he’s more likely than not a wrong’un – and find accordingly against him? Tread carefully, chaps. There will be some pretty sharp lawyers out there watching your every step down the crooked path you might be tempted to follow. Ask Shaun Harvey over at the League about that.

Leeds United AFC, it warms my heart to confirm, are standing four-square behind their man, and for solid and grounded reasons – namely: the player consistently denies the allegation; and there is no independent confirmation of what was, or wasn’t, said. Certain Norwich City supporters have taken to Twitter and hormonally demanded that Leeds United should be summarily liquidated for this stance. I can only clap my face to my palm in despair and recommend that such very un-cerebral people might benefit from an elementary law course, a session watching “Petrocelli” or maybe a somewhat larger gene pool – quite possibly all three. Not, of course, that I would wish to be in any way Wurzellist or yokellist here.

As ever with Leeds United and their frequent brushes with the game’s authorities, it’s not possible to predict any outcome with any degree of confidence. But, given the apparent and hard-to-dispute facts of this case, surely there would have to be an excess of stupidity, malice and vindictiveness for the decision to go against Bellusci. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that has happened…

The sad fact is that we are in a mess largely of our own making in that football governing bodies and fans organisations alike have tended over the past few decades to recoil in horror at any manifestation of racial prejudice. This has to be A Good Thing, of course – but it can have unfortunate consequences and there is arguably too much room these days for sledgehammers to be employed in the cracking of walnuts.

I’m not advocating any return to the days when a racial slur was tolerated and complainants were advised to take a “sticks and stones may break my bones” approach. It is tempting to wonder, though, what the likes of Cyrille Regis and Viv Anderson feel about the current squeamishness over name calling by the ignorant, as compared with what they had to go through in their seventies heyday – having bananas thrown at them, and other disgusting manifestations of brainless and moronic behaviour. What of our own late and lamented Albert Johanneson, who was staggered to find that he was allowed in the communal bath with the rest of the players, so used was he to being considered a second-class citizen where he grew up. Would our Albert have had a hissy fit over a name he thought he’d heard someone call him? Of course not. It’s all relative, and Albert had come from something far, far worse.

Surely to goodness, there’s a sane and happy medium somewhere? The experience of the past few years seems to be that it’s far too easy for allegations of racism to be made over hasty and possibly misapprehended words, exchanged in the heat of battle. If racial abuse can be demonstrated and if proof is at hand, then the offender should be dealt with accordingly – and in a manner to leave him (or her) in absolutely no doubt as to the inadvisability of such childish and ignorant carrying-on. But kangaroo courts hearing trumped-up charges based on uncorroborated and very possibly flawed statements – that’s a dangerous path to tread, and not one calculated to lead to increased harmony in our increasingly multi-cultural leagues. Whatever next? Will we see some hapless and brainless defensive midfielder hauled up on charges of being gingerist or stoutist? Just how stupid is the game prepared to make itself look?

Verbal abuse (whether racially-motivated or not) if it’s going to be the basis of disciplinary charges, needs to be at the most deeply offensive end of the scale – and it needs to be witnessed to such a degree as to make denial implausible. Otherwise, we’re going to continue with this spate of “name-calling” charges, and it’ll be open season on any hothead who lets his gob run away with him when tensions rise out there on the park. This would do no person and no cause any good at all – it would serve merely to trivialise something potentially highly damaging to the whole of sport and indeed society at large.

Here’s hoping that this current situation was the product of a misunderstanding, that both parties can be satisfied this is the case – and that the FA can conduct an urgent root and branch review into the standard of evidence and corroboration required before its wheels of justice start to grind. There is a very real danger here that our national sport’s venerable governing body might just end up looking even more stupid and out-of-touch than usual.

FA ‘Disappointed’ Over Leeds Utd Bellusci Stance – by Rob Atkinson

 

Prof. Dummfahrt in conference with himself, yesterday

Prof. Dummfahrt in conference with himself, yesterday

It has emerged from FA Headquarters that a growing disquiet over Leeds United’s determination to defend neo-Nazi thug Giuseppe Bellusci is leaving the ruling body “very disappointed”. Professor Hermann Dummfahrt, Head of FA Media Relations, was scathing when asked about Leeds’ intention to resist the unsubstantiated charges. “Nothing’s ever their fault, is it?” he snarled, bitterly. “Well, let me tell you, we at the FA have had quite enough of Leeds and we intend to scupper them good and proper, and by any means necessary.”

Prof. Dummfahrt has also reacted with dismay to news that United owner Massimo Cellino’s “Owners & Directors” suspension will not now kick in until his appeal against the Football League ban has been decided. This should mean that Cellino will, after all, be able to oversee Leeds’ limited transfer options in the January window. “The Football League. Ha!” the FA man spluttered, quite incandescent with rage. “They had one job. One!! And they’ve made a mess of it, a complete balls-up. You’d better believe me when I tell you we’ll be showing the League exactly how to deal with Leeds United”.

When asked what measures could be taken, the Professor was enthusiastic. “We have many options”, he chuckled. “There is this racism thing with Bellusci. The player claims that the everyday Italian word ‘Negareisn’t foul, racist abuse. Poppycock!! Then again, these unreliable, cheating Eyeties are all the same, it’s in their DNA – notorious liars….ahem.”

Feeling it best to move on from the topic of racism, we asked Dummfahrt what other sanctions might apply. “Well, I hear what you say – but don’t assume that our racism investigations end with Bellusci. Leeds also have a player, believe it or not, called Montenegro! Check out those last two syllables – racist as the ace of spades or what??” Hmmm. OK, yes, if you say so… but – what else do you have?

The Professor scratched his head and observed wryly “We have to be careful about these things. Forewarned is forearmed, you know? But we have shots in our locker, trust me. There’s the Lady Di situation – you’re not telling me Leeds United had nothing to do with that. And that Schweinhund Polish linesman at Wembley in 1966, who put him up to allowing that verdammt third goal, eh? Then there’s the global financial crisis – when the whole world “did a Leeds” and the poor old bankers got the blame. We’re optimistic there. And – nobody ever got nicked for the Jack the Ripper killings, did they? That’s worth a 15 to 30 point deduction on suspicion alone.”

At this point, our Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent was, to say the least, somewhat gobsmacked. Feeling that the eminent FA man was, perhaps, pulling his chain a little, our reporter asked Professor Dummfahrt if he was not straying somewhat from the path of reason and sanity. “After all, Professor,” our intrepid correspondent ventured, nervously. “A lot of people, listening to all that you’ve just said, might feel that you’re absolutely barking mad, dribblingly deranged and pursuing some insane and unjustified vendetta against a club earnestly trying to sort out its problems – just how would you respond to that?”

The Professor fixed our man with a steely glare and broke into a bout of cracked and maniacal laughter. “Mad?” he raved. “Mad?? Of course I’m bloody mad, you poor, simple soul!! How the hell do you think I qualified for a senior position at the FA in the first place??”

Where Did All Those Leeds United Thugs and Racists of the 80s Go? – by Rob Atkinson

The darkside of the net

The darkside of the net

In the early eighties – and for much of that sorry decade – the experience of being a match-going, non-racist Leeds United fan was lonely and disgusting. The atmosphere around Elland Road was rancid with bigotry, skin-headed, bone-headed racists sold “The Flag”, a right-wing snot-rag, outside the ground. It was done openly, brazenly.  Dissenting voices, when raised, brought upon their owners the risk of violence.  The club was inert and complacent.  The police sat by and watched.  It was depressingly, shamefully awful.  And then, things started to change.

Civilised, intelligent Leeds United supporters, unable and unwilling to accept the evil being dispensed in the name of their beloved club, organised themselves into Leeds United Fans Against Racism & Fascism.  Fanzines were sold expounding the voice of reason against the bigoted filth being peddled by the racists.  More decent supporters woke up to what had been going on, joined the anti-racist movement, bought the fanzines, started to raise the voice of protest against the ignorance and malice of the terrace chants against visiting black players.

Even the slumbering Leeds United itself reacted positively to the changes afoot. Black players were signed, the first since the brief but bright Leeds career of Terry Connor. Noel Blake, affectionately nicknamed “Bruno”, loved by the Kop. Vince Hilaire, quicksilver winger reviving memories of Albert Johanneson in the sixties, the first black player to play in the Cup Final and a Leeds hero when the Revie revolution was still new.  It was a painfully long, slow job – but Leeds United finally managed to all but rid itself of one of the most degradingly awful reputations for racism and bigotry anywhere in the game – and they largely did it as an institution, by the efforts of enlightened fans supplemented by the club’s more enlightened transfer policy at a time when there was still an unofficial bar observed by the likes of Everton FC.

I’m extremely proud of the way my club tackled its problems.  The Leeds United of today bears no resemblance at all to the sick club being brought to its knees 30 years ago, dying of the cancer of racism.  The whole world has moved on, though pockets of the disease still exist at home, yet far more significantly and overtly abroad.  We now live in a time when these manifestations of hate and ignorance are a palpable shock to the system – and that in itself is a massive change for the better.  Such inhuman behaviour has never ever been acceptable, but now it’s seen to be completely unacceptable, and that is the very essence of progress and reinvention.

But what actually happened to all of those who revelled in the racism and violence that was so much more prevalent in the 1980s? Have they given up on football support altogether?  Have they, perhaps, defected en masse to Millwall, where both problems still rear their ugly heads with depressing semi-regularity? The sad fact is that, far from removing their loathsome presence from the world of Leeds United, many of these idiots are still very much around – older, but no wiser; and still determined to espouse their Daily Mail recycled views even if they’re no longer up for a barney in the physical sense.

As you can tell from the match-day experience, the people physically present at the ground are more prosperous these days, less inclined to fisticuffs as a means of recreation and certainly not given to racial slurs and abusive chants based on those slurs.  It’s become unfashionable – and as that cultural change has occurred, so the attraction of being at the match has waned for those of the more extreme attitudes.

Like it or not, the tendency towards racism and xenophobia is closely linked to the extremes of right wing thinking – I use that word in its loosest possible sense.  Those of a more left-wing outlook do not, as a rule, tend towards racial abuse and other such prejudice-driven behaviour.  As with any rule of thumb, there will be isolated exceptions – but for the most part, racism and the tendency towards its expression in violent and abusive terms is a right-wing phenomenon.

This is still relevant today, despite the fact that the physical manifestations of such behaviour are greatly reduced at our football grounds, notably Elland Road. It’s relevant because there is one remaining stronghold where these people gather together, share their views, yearn for the “good old days” and jealously guard their out-dated views against infiltration from what they see as left-wing or liberal weakness.  That stronghold is the internet, or at least isolated parts of it. Where Leeds United is concerned, my experience as someone who feels the need to challenge the uglier tendencies of the Right is that some boards and forums – notionally just about support for Leeds United FC – are no-go areas. You’re not welcome if you try to push an agenda that runs contrary to the prevailing right-wing views; indeed you are likely to be gagged for “provocation” if you persist in this.

Such has been my recent experience on the WACCOE board, where the resident hard-of-thinking types get very hot under the collar if they feel that their cosy, right-wing, casually racist views are being challenged.  The same sort of thing applies equally if not more so on the Network 54 “Service Crew” Forum, where people who are decidedly old enough to know better still talk in fondly nostalgic terms of the days when a good old punch-up was part of the weekend’s entertainment, and when no away trip was really worthwhile unless a pub or two had been smashed up, and there’d been an “off” with some opposing “lads” with maybe the chance to bait an identifiable ethnic minority, just for fun.

The sad thing is that, on both of these sites, there is frequently plenty of interest to read and to get involved in discussing – but, inevitably, as you become more of a contributor, your own views become known – particularly if, as I have done, you share blog posts and argue your corner. Then, the moderators or admin types move in, because they feel that you’re rocking the boat and upsetting the precious little racists and ex-thugs that seemingly make up the bulk of the membership. It’s all so depressingly juvenile and exclusive – when it could actually be a valuable resource for thrashing out the real issues that face Leeds United and its fans today, in a world that has changed radically from that of 30 years ago.

It was only going to be a matter of time before I was silenced on one or both forums – and now I have no voice on WACCOE; something that fails to fill me with regret or chagrin.  My offence was to speculate that UKIP are set fair to harm the Tories at next year’s election, by splitting the racist idiot vote.  It was a mildly provocative line, calculated to upset and draw out the real xenophobes on the site – but naturally it descended into a free for all, and now I’ve been found to be an unhealthy influence – so I’m gagged in order that the resident mini-Farages can chat happily among themselves – frequently starting their comments with “I’m no racist, but….”.

The fact that I’ve now been silenced is not something I’ll lose any sleep over for my own sake – but it did make me think about the type of person who is still out there, parading under the banner of Leeds United supporters and identifiable as such to those outside the club – who might then judge us all by what a few unreconstructed idiots have to say, while more moderate views are being suppressed.

I honestly believe that the problems of racism and gratuitous violence in football stadia are virtually solved now; that the perpetrators of both types of unpleasant, anti-social behaviour have either been chased away from the grounds, or are so outnumbered and closely monitored that they have no option but to keep their nasty little ways to themselves – and to other venues. Even though you still do get the odd isolated incident – as with the moronic Aaron Cawley at Hillsborough last season – they’re rare enough to be virtually a thing of the past.  But we live in a digital age, and the fact is that Leeds United FC is a massive presence on the net – much, much more popular than all but a few Premier League clubs.  That being the case, we have to look to our reputation in the virtual world just as much as we do in the real-life match-day environment.

The presence of at least two relatively high-profile web-sites, which appear to harbour many whose views and tendencies are inimical to modern-day standards, is not good news.  It’s to be hoped that, maybe, more enlightened moderation could yet induce more grown-up attitudes and behaviour – or at least so alienate the extremists that they fade out of view altogether.  At the very least, I’d earnestly hope that – whoever from opposing or rival clubs ever takes a look at WACCOE or the Service Crew Forum – they won’t judge the bulk of genuine Leeds United fans by the childish, ignorant and prejudiced rubbish they might read on those particular two sites.  It’s not big, it’s not clever – and it certainly has nothing to do with 21st century Leeds. 

World Football Must “Do a Leeds” – and Banish the Evil of Racism – by Rob Atkinson

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Yaya Toure – racially abused

Eyebrows tend to be raised, lips are apt to be pursed and there is a general air of bemused surprise when any Leeds United fan (this blogger, for instance) condemns racism.  Those who will throw their hands up in horror – rightly so – whenever they encounter a racial stereotype, seem rather less scrupulous about imposing stereotypes of their own when their cosy perceptions about United fans are challenged.  Hang on a minute, they demur – Leeds supporters are about the most racist around, aren’t they?  Well, perhaps they were, once upon a time.  But times change and the Leeds United fan culture of today is a vastly different thing to the bleak days of the early eighties.  More of which later.

The events of last week have brought the whole foul problem back into sharp focus. During Manchester City’s away Champion’s League tie against CSKA Moscow, midfielder Yaya Toure was subjected to monkey chants from the grinning morons among the home support. It’s a real problem in many parts of Europe and the one thing that’s tolerably certain is that it’s not going to go away on its own.  What’s normally needed to remedy such matters is supporter organisation into a strong anti-racism movement – which was, not incidentally, the Leeds United experience – or tough sanctions from some higher authority with something approximating to a backbone.

Toure may not have been alone in suffering this awful, unjustifiable and humiliating abuse – some sources report that team-mate Fernandinho may also have been targeted. Toure was understandably disgusted and has demanded action.  He has even gone so far as to suggest that the 2018 World Cup, scheduled to be hosted by Russia, could be hit by a black players’ boycott.  I only hope that he’s serious about that, and that he can count on the support of other black players, as this would be a shattering blow to the tournament – much, much greater today than it would have been in the eighties.  A far higher proportion of the world’s best players are black today than back then, such has been the explosive development of the game in Africa, a continent where many nations are emerging as serious football powers.  A black players’ boycott of the tournament, then, could be a way to apply irresistible pressure to fans and ruling bodies alike.  A World Cup without many of its most mesmerising stars would be unthinkable; even if it went ahead it would be so devalued as to be hardly worth winning.

Jose Mourinho has a view on the issue of a possible boycott, as he does on so many issues.  He expressed “sympathy” for Toure, but said he did not support the City player’s comments afterwards.

“I respect his opinion, but I disagree,” said Mourinho. “I disagree because the history of football was made equally by many races, and the black players have fantastic contribution to what football is.

“Who is more important: the billions of people in love with the game around the world, or a few thousand that go to football stadia and have a disgraceful behaviour in relation to the black players?

“If I was a black player, I would say the other billions are much more important. Let’s fight the thousands but give to the billions what they want: the best football. Football without black players is not the best football.”

As a football man on football matters, Mourinho’s is a voice to be respected – but in the last nine words of that quote, he basically makes the case for, not against, a boycott by black players of Russia 2018.  Just imagine if you will a tournament blighted by the kind of sickening filth Toure and possibly Fernandinho had to suffer last Wednesday night. It’s too horrible to contemplate – and what message would it send out to the billions worldwide that Jose is seeking to protect from a World Cup bereft of black talent? Endemic racism is OK as long as we’re being entertained by the football? That’s not the way to go and it’s not the example to set to the world’s children.

Mourinho then is surely wrong to suggest that those billions would rather witness a tournament dragged down to gutter level by cretins whose idea of fun is to abuse a world star by making crude monkey noises.  The best thing an organised movement of black players could possibly do is to show FIFA that the situation is intolerable by refusing to have anything to do with such a toxic affair.  Perhaps then even FIFA – a body which inspires little confidence, led by a man in Sepp Blatter who is little better than a bad joke – might consider its options, faced as they would be with a sanction of such potentially seismic effect.  They certainly should consider those options, which are practically limitless.

It’s certainly pointless to wait around hoping that UEFA might put their own house in order, something they’ve proved themselves singularly incapable of doing.  Instead, FIFA should act, and act decisively.  They should advise Russia that, unless this problem can be addressed and eliminated by 2015, an alternative host nation will be found for the 2018 World Cup – it’s that serious.  They should monitor the situation, act as advised and they should then stick to their guns.  They won’t, of course, because they are truly spineless and complacent – which is why the likes of Yaya Toure and the others like him who are subjected to this evil baiting, really have no choice but to rally together and organise themselves to take their own action.  Good luck to them if that’s the path they take.

In the early eighties the experience of being a match-going, non-racist Leeds United fan was lonely and disgusting.  The atmosphere was rancid with bigotry, skin-headed, bone-headed racists sold “The Flag”, a right-wing snot-rag, outside the ground.  It was done openly, brazenly.  Dissenting voices, when raised, brought upon their owners the risk of violence.  The club was inert and complacent.  The police sat by and watched.  It was depressingly, shamefully awful.  And then, things started to change.

Civilised, intelligent Leeds United supporters, unable and unwilling to accept the evil being dispensed in the name of their beloved club, organised themselves into Leeds United Fans Against Racism & Fascism.  Fanzines were sold expounding the voice of reason against the bigoted filth being peddled by the racists.  More decent supporters woke up to what had been going on, joined the anti-racist movement, bought the fanzines, started to raise the voice of protest against the ignorance and malice of the terrace chants against visiting black players.

Even the slumbering Leeds United itself reacted positively to the changes afoot.  Black players were signed, the first since the brief but bright Leeds career of Terry Connor. Noel Blake, affectionately nicknamed “Bruno”, loved by the Kop.  Vince Hilaire, quicksilver winger reviving memories of Albert Johanneson in the sixties, the first black player to play in the Cup Final and a Leeds hero when the Revie revolution was still new.  It was a painfully long, slow job – but Leeds United finally managed to rid itself of one of the most degradingly awful reputations for racism and bigotry, and they largely did it as an institution, by the efforts of enlightened fans supplemented by the club’s more enlightened transfer policy at a time when there was still an unofficial bar observed by the likes of Everton FC.

I’m extremely proud of the way my club tackled its problems.  The Leeds United of today bears no resemblance at all to the sick club being brought to its knees 30 years ago, dying of the cancer of racism.  The whole world has moved on, though pockets of the disease still exist at home, yet far more significantly abroad.  We now live in a time when these manifestations of hate and ignorance are a palpable shock to the system – and that in itself is a massive change for the better.  Such inhuman behaviour has never ever been acceptable, but now it’s seen to be completely unacceptable, and FIFA above all must face up to the reality of this.

FIFA simply have to act, and they have to act now.  Despite CSKA Moscow’s revolting stance whereby they’re claiming this simply didn’t take place – the club’s deputy media manager, Michael Sanadze, told Sky Sports News that “nothing special happened” – they have been charged by UEFA with “racist behaviour”. UEFA though are an organisation clearly lacking in the backbone to apply sanctions and see them through, Lazio having been punished for comparable transgressions in the past, the stadium closure subsequently being reduced to a mere slap on the wrist.

The message from FIFA has to be clear and unequivocal.  Stop the racist abuse – or lose the World Cup in 2018.  Failing that, Yaya Toure and his black colleagues – and how good it would be to think that non-black players might also support such a move – should carry with them the good wishes and backing of every decent-minded person as they seek to reduce the tournament in Russia to the well-merited status of farce.  It would be no more than FIFA deserve for what would amount to tacit support of the racist minority whose venom threatens to poison the whole football world.

Time to Get Rid of Sepp Blatter, The “Benny Hill of World Football” – by Rob Atkinson

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Sepp Scuttle – on a mission

There were two very worrying pieces of news from the football world in the last couple of days, which I suppose is roughly par for the course.  The first concerns Sepp Blatter, the ridiculous FIFA President.  The second should concern him, but he’s a man who tends to brush off bad news that is inconvenient to him – so don’t hold your breath.

Firstly then, we have the unwelcome tidings that Blatter may wish to continue in a role he’s singularly inadequate for, possibly well into his eighties.  Certainly he appears unwilling to countenance the prospect of being succeeded by UEFA president Michel Platini, and his remarks about having “a mission to see through” will worry those who had hoped to see an injection of sanity at the top of the world game.

Secondly – there was the frankly disgusting outbreak of racist behaviour directed at Manchester City’s Yaya Toure during the CSKA Moscow v City Champions League game. Russia of course is the venue for the 2018 World Cup, and to hear monkey noises directed at the opposition’s black players is to understand that there are still nations where this problem is endemic. That is totally unacceptable by any reasonable standards, but such considerations appear completely to pass Blatter by.  He seemed to take great delight in the choice of Russia as 2018 host nation, and has been more concerned at rubbing England’s noses in it over their failure to hold a World cup since 1966, than with any strategies for addressing the disgusting tendency of Russian “fans” to sink to gutter depths of abuse and racial hatred.

Blatter has been described as the “Benny Hill of World Football”, which would appear to be a gross and unwarranted insult to an English comedian who is not around to defend himself or express his dismay at being compared with a buffoon such as the useless Sepp. His contentment to see a World Cup take place in a cess-pool of racism isn’t the limit of his idiocy.  He has also stood four-square behind the award of the 2022 tournament to Qatar – a nation state with temperatures which preclude a normally-timed World Cup and with a population the size of Manchester’s together with an even worse human rights record.  When it was revealed earlier this year that between June 4 and August 8 this summer, 44 Nepalese migrant workers died on construction sites, most of them from heart failure or industrial accidents, Blatter could only comment ‘FIFA cannot interfere with the labour rights of any country, but we cannot ignore them,’  As meaningless contradictions and futile wastages of breath go, that’s a market leader.  Blatter’s other helpful comments in relation to Qatar 2022 include advising gays “simply to abstain from sex” due to the emirate’s medieval laws concerning homosexuality.

The more one hears of Blatter and his rampant ego, his ridiculous bearing and his asinine statements, to say nothing of his decision-making skills which would appear to be on a par with General Custer’s at the Little Big Horn, the more it’s tempting to conclude that Benny Hill’s Fred Scuttle character could hardly do a worse job.  But if Blatter really is determined to cling on to power, it’s no laughing matter.  The lack of anything resembling a backbone in the levels of FIFA below the Almighty Sepp means that he could easily get his way, and if THAT happens – it’s not impossible to imagine that we may yet see a World Cup being held in Iran, Chad or Syria.  It’s imperative that we get rid of this stupid man – but an even higher priority than that is to make it abundantly clear to both Russia and Qatar that unless they put their houses in order within the next two years, then steps will be taken to reverse the decisions identifying them as hosts for the most prestigious football tournament of them all.

Nothing less than this will do.  But as long as the Blatters of this world are in charge, with the attendant baggage of incompetence, pomposity, rampant egos and the stench of corruption – then nothing is precisely what we shall get.