The Football Association has expressed concern in a forcefully worded statement about the rise in frequency of offensive chanting about the Hillsborough disaster, calling the latest incidents “abhorrent” and strongly condemning “these terrible chants”.
The FA considers chants about the disaster to be deeply inappropriate and offensive, but is prevented from sanctioning clubs over them because it only has jurisdiction under its rules to act on discriminatory chanting. However, the governing body says it supports efforts to stamp out the behaviour.
The Labour MP Ian Byrne, a survivor of the 1989 tragedy, said in a letter to the Premier League last week that such chants had now become “incessant” and a “weekly occurrence” at games involving Liverpool.
Ninety-seven football fans were found to have been unlawfully killed as a result of the failings of the emergency services at the FA semi-final match against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough.
“We are very concerned about the rise of abhorrent chants in stadiums that are related to the Hillsborough disaster and other football-related tragedies,” an FA spokesperson said. “These chants are highly offensive and are deeply upsetting for the families, friends and communities who have been impacted by these devastating events, and we strongly condemn this behaviour. We support clubs and fans who try to stamp out this behaviour from our game.
“We also support the excellent work of the survivor groups who engage with stakeholders across football to help educate people about the damaging and lasting effects that these terrible chants can have.”
Byrne told the Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, that his organisation had a “duty of care” to stamp out the chanting, and that three Hillsborough survivors had taken their own lives this year, two of them since the Champions League final in Paris. Liverpool supporters were kept penned outside the perimeter of the stadium in Paris in May for hours before kick-off.
The French authorities attempted initially to blame ticketless Liverpool supporters for the chaos, but a subsequent French senate report said the travelling fans had been unfairly cast as scapegoats in an attempt to divert attention away from organisational failings.
Byrne wants the Premier League to back The Real Truth Legacy Project, an initiative he leads to educate people about what happened at Hillsborough. He tweeted on Wednesday afternoon: “A welcome statement from the FA who are welcome to join our meeting with the @premierleague when agreed. The need for football stakeholders to work on the education of supporters regards Hillsborough is long overdue.”
Last month, Liverpool condemned a section of the travelling Manchester City support for engaging in “vile” taunts relating to the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters during the Premier League game between the clubs. “We are deeply disappointed to hear vile chants relating to football stadium tragedies from the away section during today’s game at Anfield,” the club said. “The concourse in the away section was also vandalised with graffiti of a similar nature.
“We know the impact such behaviour has on the families, survivors and all those associated with such disasters. We are working with the relevant authorities and we will also work with Manchester City in order to do our utmost to ensure these chants are eradicated from football altogether.”