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New jobs for lawyers could entail representing black footballers

Posted by: Laurence Simons 21/11/12

The Society of Black Lawyers is to hold discussions with police before going ahead with plans to complain about Tottenham Hotspur fans' habitual chanting of 'Yid Army'.

This comes despite the club's protestations that supporters of the club - which has an historic Jewish connection - use the word in their match day chants to stop it being used as an insult by opposing fans.

Society of Black Lawyers chairman Peter Herbert confirmed that his organisation has been in touch with that bastion of racial equality the Metropolitan Police. 

"Ideally, as a result of that they will speak to Tottenham and the Football Association about these anti-Semitic chants," he added.

Spurs fans will no doubt express their outrage over this latest criticism, especially because all modern football fans have a deep well of self-righteous outrage and moral opprobrium from which they are never slow to draw.

While they might have a case, its credence has been lessened by the news that no lesser an intellectual colossus than David Baddiel - modern renaissance man, novelist, poet, screen-writer, comedian and astronaut - has supported Mr Herbert's action.

"The thing to remember about yid is: It's a race-hate word. It was daubed across the East End by Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts," said the Chelsea fan.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, English football's reputation has taken a serious battering over the last few months, with racial issues rising to the fore.

Following on from John Terry's abuse of Anton Ferdinand and Luis Suarez's comments towards Patrice Evra last season, along with the chants recently aimed at England Under-21 international Danny Rose in Serbia, concerns have been raised over how far the game really has progressed from the dark days of the 1980s.

Human rights barrister Mr Herbert was one of the fiercest critics of how the racism scandal has been handled by the FA, telling BBC News that talks over a separate black footballers' association have begun in the wake of the incidents.

He argued that a more "radical" approach was needed in combating racism in football, striking a chord with many who felt that the powers that be in England have not taken a sufficiently strong stand against discrimination in sport.

"What we are seeking to do for the individuals is to have that protection so they are not on their own ... but have the support of the whole community of the UK - and that includes the legal community."

However, Professional Footballers' Association chairman and Northampton Town player Clarke Carlisle warned that his new group could have a divisive effect and called for a show of unity in the football community. 

Sadly, this is unlikely to be the last time people in legal careers intersect with footballing ones in the next few years. Jumpers for goalposts? Not a chance.