FANPOST: Drawing The Line - When Does 'Banter' Become Abuse?

I'm not a great fan of Top Gear. This has more to do with me having zero interest in motoring, rather than a specific dislike for the presenters.

Every few months, it seems, Hammond, Clarkson and May are embroiled in a new scandal, wherein they have insulted a person, a group of people, or even an entire nation.

Their default response to the ire over, say, their comments about Mexicans, is to shrug and claim they were joking; claim that it's all a bit of banter. That statement is usually followed with an admonition to the offended to 'get a sense of humour.'

For my money, no-one does banter quite like football fans. In particular British supporters are world-renowned for their wit and creativity in creating chants and songs.

But is there a point in which banter turns into something else; something nastier? And should we doing anything about it?

Today at the derby, the Newcastle supporters sang several choruses of 'Titus she said no', referring, of course, to the unfortunate allegations made against Titus. Allegations which, in case there was any confusion, were quickly proven to be false.

And I found the chant to be a little upsetting, if I'm honest. Now I'm a Sunderland supporter and I am absolutely biased toward Sunderland and our lads. But is rape something to be bandied about a football stadium?

Lest any readers of the black and white persuasion think I'm typing from my plinth on the moral high ground, I have similar concerns with a few Sunderland chants. I've joined in on 'Alan Shearer's illegitimate with it's distasteful third line: 'he got AIDS and can't get rid of it.'

Rape and AIDS: hardly palatable subjects for the dinner table, yet we loudly and proudly sing about them at the weekend.

Possibly the worst examples of these sort of exchanges concern truly horrific events.

Liverpool supporters have been mocked with chants about Hillsborough. At the risk of sounding like a humourless, moralising Daily Mail scribe, there's nothing funny about Hillsborough. Manchester United fans have been on the receiving end of chants mocking the Munich Air Disaster. And as a part-time Tim, I've attended a number of Celtic matches, and I have heard some disgraceful songs about the IRA and the Ibrox disaster. The Gers are no saints either...

I won't link to them, but if you head over to YouTube now, there are plenty of videos up which celebrate what is effectively the worst of football fans... and it's not all inter-club chanting either.

A few Sunderland supporters have tried to get a Ji chant going that includes the line 'he eats a labrador' and against Hibernian two weeks ago, the group of five men sat in front of me used the 'n' word in reference to Gyan.

My Paperback OED (6th ed.) tells me that banter is 'friendly teasing between people.' Yet it seems over the years, we've become nastier and nastier to each other.

There's nothing friendly about racial slurs; there's no gentle teasing in homophobia and sexism.

Should clubs be cracking down on that which is iniquitous; that which is contemptible?

Nearly every club in the Premier League claim that they are cracking down on the more prurient chanting. At Liverpool last weekend, there was a tannoy announcement imploring any supporter who overheard racist or homophobic remarks to report it to their nearest steward.

The back of my Hibs ticket thusly states: The use of threatening behaviour, foul or abusive language is strictly forbidden. Racial, sectarian, homophobic or discriminatory abuse or chanting is also forbidden and is considered as UNACCEPTABLE CONDUCT [emphasis theirs] and may result in arrest and a lifetime ban from regulated football matches.

A noble sentiment. After all, if you shouted racial abuse at someone on the street, it would probably earn you at least an ASBO. Why should attendance at a football match excuse us from obeying the law?

Although, noble as it is, I suppose there is a problem in how to enforce these rules. If anyone who swore at a football match is to be ejected (including those who swear in frustration when Wes Brown attempts a Messi moment in our eighteen-yard box... oh good God why did that happen?!) the stadium would be empty very quickly, and how on earth do the stadia police upwards of 40,000 people? We'd need a steward to supporter ratio of about three to one.

Compared with some of our Continental neighbours (Spain, Italy, Russia) we are leaps and bounds ahead in terms of having a diverse and multicultural society at large, and that attitude is reflected on our football pitches.

But when Japanese (Shunsuke Nakamura) and Korean (Ji Dong-Won) footballers have dog-eating chants hurled at them, one wonders if we really have come a long way.

Or do I need to get a sense of humour?...

Are you making a FanPost? Well that's fantastic, just keep it tasteful.