Friday 22 November 2019

Anti-IRA chants are not illegal, says English fans group

The England band have sparked controversy by playing music to anti-IRA songs during the game with Scotland at Celtic Park
The England band have sparked controversy by playing music to anti-IRA songs during the game with Scotland at Celtic Park
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

The Football Supporters' Federation of England (FSF) has released a statement saying that anti-IRA chants are not helpful at England games but went on to stress that singing such songs in football stadiums is not illegal.

England fans were heard chanting "No Surrender to the IRA" in Turin during their 1-1 draw with Italy last Monday night. After similar chants by the away fans in Glasgow against Scotland before Christmas, England manager Roy Hodgson weighed in to plead for it to stop ahead of Ireland's high-profile clash with England on June 7.

"I love the fact that our fans come [and support in numbers] but there’s no way I can justify or be glad about any political chants of that nature," Hodgson said. "We can only hope we can put that right before we go to Ireland."

Following the shocking scenes in Lansdowne Road when the sides last met in Dublin, police are on a heightened security alert ahead of the June showdown.

A spokesperson for the Football Supporters' Federation in England (FSF) told "The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) reaffirms its opposition to any type of discriminatory, racist or abusive chanting.

"The support that the England team enjoys – particularly away from home – is the envy of most of the rest of the football world. It is our belief that this is deployed to best effect when getting behind the team; songs about the IRA or World War Two simply don’t serve that purpose, and cause unnecessary offence to many.

"Racist and discriminatory chanting is illegal; the advice that we have received however is that anti-IRA and World War II-related chanting does not fall foul of the law and would be unlikely to lead to successful prosecutions under the current legislation. Knee-jerk calls for bans or a “clampdown” are therefore unlikely to deliver any meaningful productive outcome.

"The FSF are not recent converts to this issue. As far back as 2005, we wrote in Free Lions (edition 46, England v Colombia): 'What is it about England fans that despite being amongst the best and most vocal supporters in the world, who don’t just sing when we’re winning, we’ve got such a small repertoire of songs… We have songs that are patriotic, and then some that are controversial - at best divisive and at worst offensive. But precious few about football, which is what it’s supposed to be all about.'"

Read more: Fears grow ahead of Aviva clash after England fans chant anti-IRA songs again

Read more: English thugs were in Dublin to fight each other, not the Irish says former football hooligan

Read more: Ireland vs England: Garda riot fears prompt move to lunchtime kick-off

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