Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and the racism question

When I recently wrote a preview of Nottingham Forest’s FA Cup third round tie against Leicester City for the Forest site Seat Pitch, there were one or two omissions. If I had been braver, I might have mentioned the sort of chants which Leicester fans have become accustomed to hearing from their left at the City Ground over the years. For the uninitiated, Forest’s most vocal support is situated in the far right of their Main Stand. And they have often shown far right tendencies.


We have heard this week that Nottinghamshire Police received a complaint from a Leicester fan after the game regarding chants made by Forest supporters on Saturday. A video subsequently appeared on YouTube, since removed by the user, which showed Forest fans in the Main Stand singing “England, England, England” and “You used to be English, you’re not any more”. While it didn’t appear on the video, there was also a chorus of “Small town in Baghdad” during the second half from a similar number of Forest supporters. Even as someone who finds the tone of these chants offensive, the content of the video doesn’t appear to contain anything worthy of a charge but the fact we are talking about the issue is a good thing. Hopefully, we won’t have to in future as there will be nothing to discuss.

It is worth pointing out, although it should be obvious, that the people responsible for these songs have always represented a small minority of the overall attendance at the City Ground for games involving Leicester. Things have also improved rather than worsened in recent years. When I attended the league game between the two clubs last season, it occurred to me that this was the first time I hadn’t heard that old classic, the reprehensible “Town full of P***s”, directed at the away end. This didn’t get an airing on Saturday either, nor during the league meeting in August. And no, not all Leicester fans are angels either. I have heard chants about Brian Clough’s death before. I hated them too.

Of course, there will always be a broad spectrum of opinion which arises in answer to a story like this and the reaction from Forest fans on Twitter and messageboards varied enormously. Thankfully, there seemed to be a far bigger proportion of supporters willing to admit the sinister undertones of the chants even if some continue to believe they are directed at the nature of Leicester’s ownership. By the by, even if they were, which I don’t believe for a second, that doesn’t exactly quell the notion that they were racist. So what if Leicester’s owners aren’t English? And, as some have pointed out, the club’s previous owner, Milan Mandaric, is Serbian-American. He wasn’t subject to the same chants. Have Derby County’s American owners been subjected to them? The subtext is crystal clear.

When these things happen, you get one or two who make ludicrous statements. With the all-seeing glory that is the internet, we can now pick these reactions up in the space of seconds. Among those who took to Twitter without first engaging their brains included people who responded by complaining about Leicester fans throwing stones at Forest supporters (as if, as this excellent piece on the EighteenSixtyFive site points out, two wrongs cancel each other out).

There are two points I must make here from a personal perspective.

Firstly, I saw two of the morons in question hurling stones at the Forest supporters. The first bright spark’s eyes lit up when he realised the police escort taking Leicester fans back to the railway station was passing over a bridge, under which Forest fans were being held. “There’s Forest under there”, he half-shouted and half-whispered as though acknowledging that most of his fellow supporters would be ashamed of his actions. “Quick, lads! Get your coins!” With a nervous laugh, this twenty-first century troglodyte hurled a couple of pennies down onto the pavement below and his idiot mate duly threw one as well before they embraced in celebration of the possibility that they had just caused injury to a random member of the public who happens to support a football club from a neighbouring city. With that, they gleefully jogged off like a pair of teenage girls that have just seen Justin Bieber in the flesh. You could tell they wanted to jump and click their heels together as though this was the high point of their week.

Secondly, it would be hypocritical of me to criticise anyone making a remark on Twitter without thinking things through. When Forest scored their late leveller in the league meeting with Leicester in August, I referred to the “racists” equalising. I rightly received a few responses, some humorous and some abusive, all of which I deserved. It was, in fact, a chant from a couple of hundred fans in the Main Stand, the very same chant which has resulted in this week’s complaint, that had angered me so much at the time, but the real fury at the time concerned the nature of the goal (in addition to Kasper Schmeichel’s sending-off and Leicester’s second-half performance) as well as the chant. Above all, the fact that the goal had been scored by a black player summed up how ridiculous I had been.

Both of these things were clearly very wrong. You shouldn’t throw stones at anyone, not in actual terms nor from glass houses in a metaphorical sense. Supporters are proud of their football clubs and hate the idea of the club’s name being dragged through the mud in any way, even if that means allegations against a small number of their supporters, and you have to account for that when considering the reaction to an event like this.

Incidentally, the best response I have seen on this issue came from a Forest supporter on Twitter who urged his fellow fans to condemn the chants and move on. Perfect. This isn’t some tit-for-tat arrangement whereby Leicester fans are looking to piggyback on the current anti-racism agenda raised by the Suarez and Terry events. It was a complaint made by a small number of Leicester fans (perhaps just one) and the fact that so many people are talking about it is a good thing.

With the visiting Forest fans being concentrated in a much smaller area for the replay next Tuesday, any similar chants will certainly be shouted down by their own supporters. Hopefully, there won’t be any in the first place and we can enjoy the football instead. As the editor of EighteenSixtyFive points out, we start websites to talk about matters on the pitch rather than in the stands. Talking about the number of each club’s supporters present and how loud they are is mind-numbingly boring. But we can’t ignore the content and purpose of some chants. Sometimes you have to acknowledge their continuing existence, as difficult as it can be, before things improve.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

22 Comments

  1. russ
    January 12, 2012

    if they dnt like the chat they can always go back home after we didnt ask them to come to england but notice whites are being out numberd,

    Reply
    • Ryan Hubbard
      January 12, 2012

      Russ: If you think that is a solution, when will you realise that you are part of the problem?

      Reply
    • Rish eighteensixtyfive
      January 12, 2012

      Russ: I appreciate that you are trolling and therefore I don’t really want to dignify you with a response, but I don’t like it. My home is in Beeston, about three miles west of Nottingham. Do you suggest I go back there? It’s only 10.15am so I don’t think my boss would be very happy…

      Reply
    • Dave
      January 12, 2012

      Okay, Russ – I’m a white Anglo-Saxon straight bloke living in an area of high immigrant population. You’re right that there are problems with immigration but there are far more problems with racists and morons who think the colour of skin makes a difference to people’s decency. I’ve met way more white scum than ethnic scum although there are plenty of both these days. Start being part of the solution rather than making the problem worse; let’s kick the racists out rather than ignorantly tell people to ‘go home’. After all, most of us have foreign ancestry, it’s just that our foreign ancestors came from Germany, France and Scandinavia. Doesn’t make us better, does it?

      Reply
  2. sadandinsane
    January 12, 2012

    I can almost hear you’re knuckles dragging on the floor Russ. You’re a disgrace to whatever club you support, in fact to the human race as well. I hope you’re just a pathetic WUM, it would be the lesser of two evils. BTW I’m a Trent Ender and not a Leicester fan.

    Reply
  3. Paul
    January 12, 2012

    I was working in the Brian Clough stand with the leics fans, I heard the chants from the A block and was disgusted. As you said in the report, I also witnessed Brian Clough death chants and the offenders were warned by stewards and police and it stopped. Apart from these two chants I thought the behaviour from both sets of fans was pretty good.

    Reply
  4. Mark Mc
    January 12, 2012

    Hi, just wanted to say this was a good post, the idiocy of some people is unbearable. People that throw coins and chant about racism don’t belong at football matches let alone the 21st century.

    -Mark
    -LCFC fan

    Reply
  5. Joel
    January 12, 2012

    Top article pal. Chants between the three East Midlands clubs have bothered me for years. I’ve heard “town full of bombers” hurled at Leicester fans along with “wheres your daddy gone” aimed at Nigel Clough.

    The ignorance of football fans is quite astonishing at times and whilst racism in British football has been tackled exceptionally well over the past decade, there will forever be a minority of idiots at games until complaints are made and duly followed up by the Police and clubs in question.

    Reply
  6. Philk
    January 12, 2012

    Great peice. I am a City fan who was in the Brian Clough lower tier. Enjoyed the atmostphere and usual tribal banter (not the game thought I think we might all agree that was crap). Most right minded fans know that the chanting was from a very small minority of Forest fans and the facts are no club or place in the UK is immune or safe from these ignorant fools. The fact this is a recognised problem (in a section of the City Ground) should make the club sit up and take action.

    Reply
  7. Highstreet Dave
    January 12, 2012

    Well said, and thanks for the article. I read Rish’s post, too – and I am glad you are tackling this heavy subject. As a Forest fan who went to school in Leicester I had a lot of banter with my school mates, and that was OK because we had a day-to-day relationship (and also we were much better than them 25 years ago!). It is also fine because one minute I would be a “Forest Twat” and the next I would be the left winger that supplied the cross for the winning goal for the school, or the kid that was going out with that girl who looked like a fish – in other words, there is a lot more to our relationship than just vitriol. If you “do life” with each other you have a basis to poke fun at each other, and even be a bit personal about it – as long as the other party still feels there is respect.
    You cannot possibly have that when chanting at a nameless bunch of supporters on the other side of the ground.
    It is not just a football problem, although football is a place where people can let off steam and the stresses of the week. Sadly, what comes out is what has remained hidden all week. Football will never tackle this problem on its own, because racism needs to be tackled in society as well. Having said that, if the football world can lead the way that would be fantastic – there is so much exposure for a positive attitude.

    Reply
  8. Jamie
    January 12, 2012

    Hi, I’m a Forest fan of nearly 30 years, 11 as a season ticket holder.

    The A Block has been a problem at Forest for a long time, but it has taken on a more complex meaning in recent years as the nature of football attendance has changed. First of all, most if not all football teams have a racist element in their fanbases, it’s a consequence of the working class history of the game. Working class or deprived areas of cities that supply local teams with many of their fans have always been at the heart of issues related to racial integration in their communities, and of course under the influence of poisonous rags such as The Sun. None of this is an excuse for people’s behaviour, I’m simply stating juat some of the facts that affect the issue.

    Within the A Block there is also unquestionably a strong pro-war element to the chanting, which I’ve always felt to be influenced by Nottingham’s large contingent of squaddies, and those that know them. This is one reason why the chants often end up nationalistic, and with war references. I can’t find another explanation for the mention of ‘Baghdad’ (Leicester is well known for a large Asian community, but Iraqi?). This seems a little more sinister than the sheer ignorance behind ‘town full of P***s’, which I had the dubious pleasure of hearing in a match v Leicester a couple of years ago just mere minutes after the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign had been around the pitch pre-match.

    In days gone by, this element would have been in the Trent End, amongst many hundreds of other vociferous fans. Their chants may have still been heard, but it would have been clear that this was a troublesome minority. At today’s City Ground the problem is more noticeable because the A Block is the only area that makes any noise at all, therefore they end up representing the whole crowd, and indeed the club. This would be the chief defence of those in the A Block – without them there would be no atmosphere at the City Ground at all. The most worrying consequence of this is that younger fans will be drawn towards this area as it looks as if that’s where the action is. In short, The A Block could end up breeding racists for many years to come unless someone comes up with a way to make decent-minded Forest fans make some noise at home again.

    It’s worth pointing out that this is less of a problem away from home, where Forest fans have an excellent reputation.

    Reply
  9. Ured
    January 12, 2012

    A minority of people within the A Block represent several of the Forest Hooligan firms (ask the Police!) which explains their ability to incite impressionable idiots to spout this racist rubbish.

    Jamie,

    I sit in the Trent End Upper you should try it – plenty of noise up there with a good atmosphere at most matches.
    Obviously its been difficult this season but I’ve sat in all areas of the ground including the Main Stand.
    The Upper Trent End has the best atmosphere with the Upper Bridgford Corner a close second.
    As for the A Block you can hardly hear them from the Trent End.

    Reply
  10. wigstonfox
    January 12, 2012

    As a City fan, I have been to many Leicester Forest matches over the years.And sadly nothing suprises me at these games. I hardly think stone or coin throwing is something Forset fans should be shocked at. I have been hit as have plenty of other City fans with Stones & coins hurled down from the tier above, with no regard for the safety or well being of people below be they women or children. All I would say is who ever throws misiles in to a crowded area is a moron, whatever colour thier scarf. The chanting whether you view it as rasist or not, is done for one reason only, & thats to get under the skin of the opponant. If we rise to it, if we show it offends, then it has genderd the required response. I personally didn’t find it either racist or offensive, if anything it was Nationalistic.That being the case it seems to me to be more right wing than ignorance, and that could well be spector that hides in A block. Lets all hope that NFFC stands for Nottingham Forest Football Club, & not National Fronts Football Club. After all ones a proud & repected name, the others an out dated party of morons.

    Reply
    • robert marlow
      January 12, 2012

      Iam a Leicester fan and one thing that springs to mind here is this,everyone seems of a like mind against this racist chanting,one reply even talks about England well I watched the Carling Cup semi between Palace and Cardiff and one thing you always here from the Cardiff fans is anti English(bordering on racist) chanting which no-one says a word about.

      Reply
  11. Fat Dave
    January 13, 2012

    An excellent piece, if with a slight bias.

    But why do all these articles refer to trouble-makers as a “minority” or “small percentage”. The same when referring to racism: it is always caveated with – these racists are a small proportion.

    The vast majority of all football fans are tribalistic and respond as such in a football context.

    Don’t forget that fascism in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain was a working class movement.

    Reply
  12. Mart
    January 13, 2012

    It’s reflective of society, where in the absence of sanity, a racism card is played on behalf of travelling football supporters, who, lets face it guys..had their day out spoiled by a poor match, and a 0-0 scoreline.

    Leicester should attempt to raise the rivalry on the pitch, rather than making complaints about chats from a certain, very small section of the Forest crowd.
    This is football, and it’s always been reflective of society,and still working class.Any amount of gagging or threats will never stop people from singing songs, no matter how offensive they may be to the tender ears of football supporters, bless them.
    As the Chinese say about capitalism, you open the door, a little dust will sure follow. Football is the same, it’s about a broad spectrum of people following a football match, get over it.

    Reply
    • theseventytwo
      January 13, 2012

      1) How exactly should fans be expected to “attempt to raise the rivalry on the pitch”?

      2) If you had to place “an absence of sanity” on either side of this, where would you put it? Those chanting or those at whom the chanting was directed?

      Reply
  13. Nottingham Forest (since 1865) | Nottingham Forest v Southampton: preview and LIVE match updates
    January 14, 2012

    […] I start, I just want to say a big thank you for the overwhelming response to the last article I wrote about the allegations of racism during the Leicester match last week. I would also respectfully […]

    Reply
  14. Matt
    January 16, 2012

    Excellent post, I am currently mid-post on the same match/topic. One of my points will be, and I’d appreciate your views, on why the fans that are angered (rightly so) about this didn’t complain when our own fans were chanting homophobic chants at Brighton fans earlier in the season?

    Reply
    • theseventytwo
      January 16, 2012

      Cheers Matt. I didn’t go to the Brighton game but heard about these chants (and have often heard them in the past). From what I’ve seen on Twitter, it looks like Brighton fans are fighting back on this subject at the moment and making their voices heard on why homophobic chants are as unacceptable as racist chants.

      While it’s not a perfect situation, it does seem that it’s easier for opposition fans to raise these things before there is an open conversation.

      Reply
  15. Is Racism Socially Accepted? | WARNING: May contain mild peril
    January 16, 2012

    […] to chants of a racially insensitive nature. There is a similar post to this at the excellent theseventytwo.com that raised similar concerns to the ones I am about to; I shall try not to cover too much similar […]

    Reply
  16. Freeborn John
    January 25, 2012

    Sorry, I’m not racist but large parts of Leicester look more like India than England. I have nothing against other countries and their cultures but I do not wish to see England turn into a province of the Indian subcontinent or Poland or anywhere, England was fine the way it was, many English people have become ashamed to be English and have been brainwashed into believing that multiculturalism IS English culture and the English never had a culture or had a somehow inferior one that needed to be enriched and was somehow lacking and worthless. you have been force-fed this nonsense that England was somehow a nation of immigrants from it’s inception and that the English as an ethnic group do not exist. now imagine I went to Japan or the Serbia or Somalia and said to them, your country is far to homogeneous, your customs and ways are worthless and boring they need to be enriched by foreign cultures and told them that they are a nation of mongrel immigrants that do not exist as a people and a just a strip of land that happens to be called .Japan or the Serbia or Somalia.

    Reply

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