Chelsea chants: Our Reaction

FOR large parts of Saturday’s victory at Stamford Bridge West Ham fans chanted “Chelsea are rent boys, everywhere they go”. Perhaps it is as a result of the Blues lack of atmosphere that the words were clearly audible both on the radio at the time and Match of the Day later.

Football’s Kick It Out were very quickly onto the case. Primarily thought of as an anti-racism group they claim to be a “campaigning organisation which enables, facilitates and works with the football authorities, professional clubs, players, fans and communities to tackle all forms of discrimination.

Kick It Out statement

The group released a statement which read: “We have received numerous reports of homophobic chanting directed at Chelsea fans during their match against West Ham United on Saturday. We have informed the FA and reiterate our message: the ‘Rent Boy’ chant is homophobic and must be treated as such.”

Hot on their heels was a Twitter thread from the Pride of Irons, an LGBT+ group for West Ham fans who along with WHUISA and Hammers United are affiliated to the Football Supporters’ Association.

PoI said: “When you use homophobic chants you aren’t abusing most Chelsea fans who will be straight, but all gay fans whether they support Chelsea or West Ham… We shouldn’t be the club appearing in the news for homophobia, there are other clubs who have ingrained problems. Let’s not join their ranks. Be better. Be West Ham.”

Before taking a stand either way it should be noted the OWHWLY group are far from unanimous in how we view both the chants and subsequent reaction. However, legitimation from West Ham fans appears to fall into five themes which will be addressed in turn.

Diminishment: This runs along the lines of “Some people are offended by anything, it’s only banter.” This can be brushed aside fairly quickly – chants are designed to be offensive – the whole purpose of “banter” at football is to provoke a reaction.

Furthermore, the laws of the land on Hate Crime are very clear: “The term ‘hate crime’ can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. These aspects of a person’s identity are known as ‘protected characteristics’. A hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property.”

Players and fans celebrate

Whataboutery: Several Twitter accounts have pointed to the fact West Ham are often on the receiving end of taunts that involves the word “pikey” – a term used pejoratively against Romany that is often used to indicate low social class. Essentially, this argument says, “You can’t punish this behaviour so long as somebody else is displaying another wrong behaviour”. It is fundamentally flawed. As everybody’s grandmother used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.

Free speech: We have observed comments from people complaining a right to free speech has been curtailed. A quick look at the law as above should be enough to dispel that line. However, it is worth pointing out that with rights come duties in exactly the same way freedoms involve responsibility. Your freedom to offend explicitly curtails another’s freedom from abuse. Free speech is not and has never been an absolute.

‘Rent boy’ doesn’t mean gay: Don’t buy this one, it feels like sophistry. The most common understanding is rent boys make their money by engaging in a homosexual act. Those that go with women are more often referred to as a gigolo.

Chelsea are a special case: This argument involves an understanding of history that is unlikely to have be digested by very many at The Bridge on Saturday and is best summed up by the first post on this thread. Unless and until everybody is aware of and accepts the definition, (an unlikely scenario on both counts) other motivations for the chant have to be preferred.

Conclusion: Condemning fans is a waste of time and counter-productive. We all loved the West Ham response to Chelsea supporters refusing to allow black passengers onto a train as it enabled the Cockney Boys to take the moral high ground. It was also very funny. How about we aim to maintain that position and display our superior humour and standards by keeping the rent boy chants away from the public sphere? After all, there are plenty of other reasons for taking the piss out of Chelsea.


Chelsea 0-1 West Ham

Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.

The Stranger – The Big Lebowski

ISN’T this why we love West Ham? That frustrating, maddening, consistently awful team that just once in every while will bring us fleeting moments of the purest, most unadulterated joy imaginable.

Father and son

Saturday’s win over Chelsea contained just such an instant, as emotionally spent, 33-year-old debutant goalkeeper David Martin slumped at the final whistle before climving to the press box and tearfully embracing his father, club legend Alvin.

The Hammers had ended a dismal run of just two points from the last 21 to beat cross-town rivals Chelsea on their manor and dispel, for a few heady hours at least, all the concerns over how the club is run.

All too much

This blog is going to take time out from tactics, club gossip, intra-fan animosities and all the rest to just enjoy the moment.

“One David Martin, there’s only ONE David Martin!”

Let’s be honest, the keeper wasn’t too severely tested by a toothless Chelsea side stripped of their main attacking threat by an injury to Tammy Abraham. He did spill a couple of fairly routine catches, as well as allowing a seemingly harmless cross to rebound to safety from his near post.

Nobody cared. Every catch, every kick was cheered to the rafters by boisterous Hammers supporters relieved of the spectacle of the incompetent Roberto flapping around. At least if Martin were to be a useless goalkeeper he was OUR useless goalkeeper.

The fact is when when it came to the crunch Martin performed well. And at the final whistle the player slumped to the ground drained, having helped his boyhood team to three points courtesy of Aaron Creswell’s tidy finish. After being dragged to his feet by grateful team-mates came the trek up the terrace to a father who had made 596 Hammers appearances over a 21-season career.

West Ham salute you

Both men were in tears. Who wouldn’t be – there wasn’t a dry eye in this household!

Just one sour thought – the most recent time West Ham won at Stamford Bridge, a 3-2 victory in September 2002, the team went on to be relegated from the Premier League. But then, that side didn’t possess David Martin, a man of impeccable Hammers heritage and massive good character.

Born into the claret and blue

The background:

The story began midway through West Ham’s best ever league season of 1985-86. Four days after the Hammers had travelled back from a 3-1 league defeat to eventual champions Liverpool, centre-back and Bootle-born Alvin Martin welcomed into the world his first child, son David. Born in Romford on the 22nd of January the lad grew up showing all the promise of his father as a defender. Signed by Tottenham on schoolboy terms the player converted to a keeper and after a spell with Wimbledon made the reverse journey to his father by signing for Liverpool. Unfortunately, at 6ft 1in Martin was short for a contemporary goalie and never made a first team appearance. Following a series of loans Martin returned to Wimbledon – by now Milton Keynes Dons – and settled for seven years where he built a reputation as a solid if unspectacular player. Then followed a move to Millwall where an uncharacteristic howler during a cup match against Brighton effectively ended his Lions career. Picked up by West Ham on a free as a “training keeper” to work with first choice Lukasz Fabianski and understudy Roberto Jimenez, Martin’s chances of gaining the Premier League appearance he had always craved appeared as remote as ever. That was until the Polish stopper suffered a torn thigh muscle taking a goal kick against Bournemouth. Roberto proved to be a hopeless deputy, conceding 14 goals in just seven starts. Numerous unforced errors led to a slump in form and confidence of the entire team before manager Manuel Pellegrini, under pressure for his job, picked Martin for the derby game at Stamford Bridge.