In the wake of Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-1 victory over London rivals West Ham United on Sunday, both teams’ managers have played down allegations of tasteless chants from the away fans at White Hart Lane.
The FA are due to launch an investigation into allegations that West Ham fans chanted and sang songs that referred to the recent stabbings that occurred in Rome last week.
Spurs’ fans who had travelled to their team’s fixture against Lazio in the Europa League last week, where Spurs drew 0-0 with the Italian giants, were subjected to anti-Semitic chants from the Lazio fans during the game before Spurs fan Ashley Mills was attacked. Two Italian men have since been charged with attempted murder.
This weekend, West Ham fans were reportedly heard to chant, audible enough for television and news crews to hear, "Viva Lazio" and "Can we stab you every week?"
Whilst a fierce rivalry has been shared by the two London clubs, both sides’ managers were keen to dismiss the incident and wouldn’t be drawn on the implications it might have on either club.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce said,
"I didn't hear it," attempting to play down speculation that offensive chants had even been sung at all.
"I don't hear what the fans say or do when I'm concentrating as a manager on a game of football,” he continued. Whilst the manager cannot be held accountable for the actions of others, the club now faces a probe from the Football Association who are keen to get to the bottom of the allegations.
But the manager seemed to be more concerned with his side’s defeat than the offense that may have been taken as a result of the chants.
"They shouldn't be doing things like that, it is the least of my worries at the minute isn't it?”
He refused to be drawn on the incident and responded defensively when further questioned by reporters after the game, clearly wishing to distance himself from the alleged abuse, which is thought to contain a racial element.
"What do you want me to say? If I didn't hear it I can't condemn it can I? I don't want to be a political animal, I'm here to talk about football and not what fans are saying and singing."
Synonymously, Spurs’ coach Andre Villas-Boas attempted to distance himself from the incident, preferring to focus on his team’s performance in the game.
"I prefer not to marr the performance with a situation like this," replied the Spurs boss.
"You know the animosity there is between Tottenham and West Ham and as long as it doesn't reach stupidity it is a great, great rivalry of two London clubs. It would be extremely unfair for me to mar the performance of the players but understanding that a couple of situations are avoidable but we can't decipher the true meaning of what they were saying."
The FA has since released an official statement via a spokesman who said the FA were “highly likely” to open an official investigation as match reports from the officials at the game along with video and audio evidence will be assessed to ascertain whether further action will be taken.
What punishment, if any should West ham receive?
Update: West Ham have issued the following statement on their website -
West Ham United are in contact with Tottenham Hotspur to assist them with their investigation into the conduct of a small number of supporters and alleged inappropriate chanting during yesterday's match at White Hart Lane.
West Ham United will take the strongest possible action against any of their supporters, including enforcing life bans from the club, that are found guilty of behaviour which is categorically not condoned by West Ham United.
During the 46 games in the Championship last season, West Ham United had zero arrests for racism or violence, so while we are surprised to see such reports today, we will examine any available evidence of such conduct thoroughly and take the appropriate action.
image: © Tom Cuppens