The problem here is that what other people understand as reasonable may sometimes be viewed with a certain degree of contempt, sometimes outrage, depending on how the conflict was brought into focus in the first place.


If it was brought into focus in a crass, volatile and unsympathetic manner, what should have started out as a plea to another person’s reasonable self, becomes part of the unfolding and rapidly escalating conflict. And the war of attrition begins.

Drilling down to specifics, certain football clubs are inextricably linked with certain communities, past and present. The formation of these clubs, their original reason for coming into existence, and their continuing scope and influence today cannot be separated from the lives, the passions, the hopes and struggles, of the people who support them.

Therefore the very identity of these clubs is so bound up with the identity of the people who support them that they feel it is their right to express their support and tell their stories in the manner they deem appropriate. After all, it is their identity. It is their history as much as the club’s. And there is absolutely nothing wrong, unreasonable, offensive or illicit about doing so.

Now, it is one thing to tell the story of these clubs and the lives of the supporters in song, when they are one and the same thing. But when certain songs pick out and celebrate some of the wider historical events and political movements, that may well have affected the lives of some of the supporters at some point in time, but that have absolutely no connection with the identity of clubs themselves, there is a clear divergence between what the clubs represent, and what these particular supporters represent.

Again there is nothing particularly wrong with this, if the supporters are simply telling a wider story. It is wrong, however, when the events and political movements referred to embody ideologies of hatred, bigotry or terrorism that, however they are judged in their own right, are judged to be offensive and inappropriate within the context of football matches.

And when the clubs concerned openly disown, discourage and distance themselves from the wider stories that are being told, a clear signal is being sent that this type of behaviour is not part of who they are and that it is not tolerable in their name.

But the problem with the way in which all of this has been brought into focus recently is that it was done in a confusing, clumsy, crass and cack handed manner by politicians trying to make a name for themselves, pundits and journalists trying to sell sensational headlines, some opposition fans trying to blame each other, some people feeling that their right to express their heritage was being ripped away from them, and many others feeling that they have been left in a state of bewilderment about what is acceptable and what is not. And within this state of bitterness, resentment and confusion, the seeds of an enduring battle of wills have been sown…


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