Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Sporting Rivalry & Racist Comments

I got into a slightly heated Twitter exchange this afternoon after responding to @conorpope’s tweet to @BevaniteEllie’s statement that she was visiting Burnley. It simply said – “You’re in Burnley ? I hope you’ve had your jabs.”

I took some offence at this – although from the very first I know full well that @Conorpope is no racist – I’ve followed him on Twitter for some time, and guessed that the likelihood was that this comment was in connection with some rivalry between Burnley and some other local town – quite possibly Blackburn, or Bolton. (and it later transpired that this was indeed a comment relating to Blackburn Rovers rivalry with Burnley)

It bothered me though that a town in Lancashire – well known for it’s Asian population, was inadvertently being compared to a country, where one would be likely to need injections before travelling to. Perhaps Pakistan or India

Was I over reacting ? – maybe – but it wasn’t by accident –

I’d just like to relate a couple of anecdotes to give you a clue as to why it bothered me – both relate to me personally, and to sporting rivalry in the North of England – so are roughly analogous to this situation :

The first is about my memories of supporting Bradford Northern Rugby League team (now Bradford Bulls)  throughout the 70’s and early 80’s – Our biggest rivals were Leeds, now the Rhinos.

There was a popular “joke” amongst Leeds fans. This was that Bradford was “over run” by Asian immigrants, to the extent that it was really a foreign country, and that all or most of it’s inhabitants were Asian.

Similarly there was a “joke” amongst Northern supporters that Leeds was actually a Jewish enclave within the UK, and that all Leeds supporters were Jewish

At the games between the two teams the two sets of fans would amuse themselves by hurling racial abuse at each other despite the fact that almost all of the supporters for both teams, were white, vaguely Christian, working class people.

Many’s the time when I’ve walked through a crowd of Leeds RL supporters, wearing my Northern scarf whilst they shouted things like “You black Bastard !”   or “Acky Acky Acky – I can smell a Paki !” (I’m white and English)

I’ve also been in the middle of crowds chanting “Four by, Four by, Four by two, Four by two, Four by two” at passing Leeds supporters (four by two = Rhyming Slang for “Jew”)  and shouted out “hilarious” comments about them having had the ends of their penises cut off.

If anyone was going shopping to Bradford in those days, a typical response might be “Hope you’ve got your passport !”

Less commonly you’d be told to be careful in Leeds if you went to the toilet – “they’ll have you circumcised as soon as look at you !”

It was all done in friendly banter, good humoured, and actually some of it was genuinely very funny.

Make no mistake though, it was very very racist. I’m very glad it stopped as well.

But before you start accusing me of getting on my high horse – I can assure you that I was an active part of that mob yelling anti-semitic chants – my voice was as loud as anyone’s, and I didn’t need much encouragement. Nor did I see it at odds with my activity with groups like Rock Against Racism or the Anti-Nazi League

Looking back though I’m embarrassed about my behaviour then – it was childish, it was racist, and I’d prefer not to have done it. I hope I didn’t cause offence to anyone (although I WAS deliberately trying to offend Leeds supporters).

Rugby League wasn’t my main sport though – football was, and I’ve been a lifelong supporter of Huddersfield Town. Our key rivals are Leeds  United. There were often racist chants in the early 70’s – I’m happy to say that I didn’t get drawn in to them – the racism was far more overt than the teasing at the rugby matches.

One of the worst went like this : (to tune of Oh when the Saints)

“The Bradford End. Is always full.

The Bradford End is always full


Full of wogs full of niggers, full of pakis !

The Bradford End is always full”

Nasty eh ? I never sang it, but lots did. It would have been a brave man that told them not to. I wasn’t that brave.

Many of those who sang it (and some of them were black) justified it on the grounds that it was making fun of Bradford, that everyone knew that most City fans were white, and it was obviously a joke. It wasn’t racist. Anyone who objected needed to get a sense of humour (Where have I heard that today ?)

But I didn’t resort to chanting it. What I did do though, like many Huddersfield supporters, was fall into another habit : That of never referring to rivals Leeds United by name. In writing it would be either L**ds or L666ds.

In spoken words it would simply be “Yids”

Why ? Well the derivation is the same as that at the rugby league games in Bradford. Leeds has a significant Jewish population, and several Jewish businessman have been involved with the club. Notably Manny Cussins.

The rest of it was just spite really. Spite and racism – not that any of us had anything against Jews – it was just a nasty name which could just as easily apply to Leeds supporters.

Several years later, long after I had thankfully grown out of all this obnoxious racist rubbish (for which I feel some guilt, but mainly acute embarrassment) I became a contributor to various on-line supporters forums for Huddersfield Town.

Now these email lists and discussion groups have evolved a code of ethics. Top of the list is this : NO RACIST COMMENTS !

And usually there are none. However it became apparent that several younger fans were still using the word “Yids” to refer to Leeds. They were quickly taken to task, and threatened with expulsion by the other members, and by list owners

Most of them were bewildered – they had no idea that “Yid” was an abusive word for Jew. They simply thought that “Yids” was a deliberate mispronunciation of “Leeds”, and whilst they had no intention of offending Jews, they had every intention of offending Leeds (which is of course within the code of conduct).

This felt uncomfortable to me. I’d never intended to offend people of any race – but I realised over the years that I’d said some really quite unacceptable things, and stood by and done nothing while others showed totally nasty racist behaviour.

As a result I’ve grown into someone who has a sharp eye for comments that could be construed as racist. Some might say I’m hypersensitive – I prefer to think that I have a highly tuned awareness. If I spot racist remarks, in whatever arena, I tend to speak up and say that I don’t like it. That’s not to say that I am particularly judgemental of the people who make the comments – very few of them are intentionally racist – and as I’ve related I’ve been as guilty as anyone of doing this in the past. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter though – I really think that it does.

So all those people who want me to stop being hypersensitive, to get a sense of humour and so on. Well I’m sorry I won’t be changing.

I have incidentally had discussions via Direct Messages with @conorpope since this afternoon, which show that he’s definitely not a racist, and that he does understand my position – it’s not a problem for either of us – despite some people who seem to be rather hoping that it was.

Sorry to disappoint.

@conorpope contributes to the excellent Political Scrap Book blog by the way – which today carries a blog on a far more interesting “race row” “Bring back slavery” row returns to haunt Conservative Future candidate Craig Cox | Political Scrapbook

August 23, 2010 Posted by | blogs, idle banter, politics, twitter | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Truth takes a pounding after Leaders Debate

This headline from the Telegraph was quite widely trailed on Twitter today : Pound falls after Nick Clegg’s election debate success

Now admit it – looking at that, I’ll bet you thought that the currency markets had gone into free-fall, worried at the prospect of a Lib-Dem dominated hung parliament.

There might be the odd one of you that thought, hey Nick’s a nice guy, but if it’s going to send the City into turmoil, then I’ll stick with the Tories.

Well that’s just what the Telegraph wanted you to think.

Have a scout around and you’ll find that Nick Clegg’s apparent triumph (and actually I did think he came off best), and any fall in the value of the pound are in fact totally unrelated incidents.

How can I be so sure ?

Well mainly because the pound hasn’t nose-dived through the floor. Hasn’t lost all that much ground. In fact it’s been on an upward trend against the dollar since approximately the 25th March. Today’s fall of around 0.6% (representing less than 1 cent against the dollar, doesn’t really affect that trend. BBC NEWS | Business | Market Data | Currencies | Sterling GBP v US Dollar USD and in fact, at the time the Telegraph report was being read on-line by millions this afternoon, the pound was actually increasing in value against the Euro – although it finished the day slightly lower.

So all in all it’s been a relatively uneventful day for the pound – and whether it had gone up or down, it would have been nothing to do with Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron.

Remember that the world doesn’t really revolve around financial traders, and never forget that democracy will always be far more important than a good day’s profit in the City.

So to the general public I say – Ignore the Telegraph’s silly scare stories – and vote for the candidate you think will do the best job.

And to the Telegraph, could I suggest you change your headline to “Millwall Crash against Huddersfield, after Cameron fails in Leaders debate” – it has after all got exactly the same cause and effect relationship as your original article, and a little bit more truth about it.

Town goalscorer Peter Clarke (Picture is the Telegraph's)

Town goalscorer Peter Clarke (Picture is the Telegraph's)

April 16, 2010 Posted by | economy, Election 2010, Football, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry men dancing round the May Poll !

I’d imagine that many people were dismayed to see the accusations against global investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs, namely that they had been effectively rigging the on line ballot on the Robin Hood Tax website which is campaigning for the introduction of a very small tax  on banking transactions, which because of the vast number of transactions would be negligible to the man in the street, but net many millions in revenue from the banks such as Goldman Sachs. Hence “Robin Hood”- taking from the rich to give to the poor.

Goldman Sachs stand accused of flooding the website’s on-line opinion poll with many thousands of “No” votes within the space of around 20 minutes.

Disgraceful !

Or is it ?

In trying to get a picture of who did this, why, and how I have to confess it conjures up for me images of workers for Goldman Sachs trying to while away an hour or so without doing any work. It has the hallmarks of the Springfield Nuclear Plant’s office chair hockey tournament (played of course to FTT rules – Friday Time Waste) (and yes I know it was a Thursday) – namely that they were engaging in a slightly naughty activity for not particular reason other than it was a bit of fun.

I have fond memories of a particular WSS activity on a football email list I belong to (WSS – that’s Work Shy Slacker to the rest of you) which aimed to find the 50 most ridiculous names in football by lunchtime – the search was over by around 9.40 AM with well over a hundred footballers suffering from challenging nomenclature being held up to ridicule.

Let’s not forget either the antics of many of us (me too) who regularly vote in Daily Mail on-line polls with whatever we feel is the answer that they least want us to put.

This one is a classic :

In true Daily Mail style it gives only one practically sensible answer – It is certainly not socially acceptable to go to Tesco’s in your Jim-Jams. On a more philosophical level though we could open up a whole debate about the nature of freedom – are we free to make decision which place us outside the expected range of societal tolerance.

In Daily Mail eyes of course that makes us part of the Loony Left and Broken Britain. So what do we all do (in fairly large numbers I’d guess) ? Well we vote “yes” – it is OK to walk down to Tesco’s in Pyjamas.

Just a bit of fun. Or you could call it a barefaced lie.

If any of this has any importance, I’d say it is this : In the age of internet communications it is very easy to knock up websites & blogs, which look at peoples opinions & measure them. We can all do this – big newspapers like the mail, international financiers, football fan groups, or individual bloggers like myself.

Maybe it’s incumbent on all of us to take the responsibility not to use this power flippantly – if an online vote is a bit of fun then we should say so – and not complain if pranksters hijack it for their own ends.

If on the other hand we’re intending to use for a serious scientific or political purpose, then we should say so too – and take steps to ensure the robustness of the voting mechanism – and that it’s not likely to be falsified.

Otherwise let’s not waste time with on-line polls.

In the meantime here’s one for you to try. See if you can decide which type of poll it is – “Just for fun” – or “Serious statistical survey” (Clue: I wouldn’t advise Ladbrokes to take any bets on the outcome)

February 14, 2010 Posted by | idle banter, news, politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Beautiful Game


A lot of talk about football on Twitter tonight – and surfing around I found this wonderful snatch of prose from JB Priestley, in his 1929 novel The Good Companions, via Steve J’s blog Educated Left Foot in 2008.

For those who don’t know Bruddersford United represent the archetypal heavy woollen district football team – so are probably Bradford City, Park Avenue, Huddersfield, Leeds and Halifax all rolled into one.

Here it is

“To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink. For a shilling the Bruddersford United AFC offered you Conflict and Art; it turned you into a critic, happy in your judgement of fine points, ready in a second to estimate the worth of a well-judged pass, a run down the touch line, a lightning shot, a clearance kick by back or goalkeeper; it turned you into a partisan, holding your breath when the ball came sailing into your own goalmouth, ecstatic when your forwards raced away towards the opposite goal, elated, downcast, bitter, triumphant by turn at the fortunes of your side, watching a ball shape Iliads and Odysseys for you; and what is more, it turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half, for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swopping judgements like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art. Moreover it offered you more than a shilling’s worth of material for talk during the rest of the week. A man who had missed the last home match of “t’United” had to enter social life on a tiptoe in Bruddersford.”

Not much you can say after that !

Oh, Huddersfield beat Brighton 7-1 tonight by the way. (in case you missed it !)

August 18, 2009 Posted by | Football, idle banter | , , , | 2 Comments


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