Antisemitism and the Contested Uses and Meanings of ‘Yid’ in English Football

This evening the Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, will take his team the short distance east to visit West Ham United, the last ever encounter of these two traditional sides at the Boleyn Ground. It will no-doubt be a lively affair on and off the pitch, as Spurs chase the league title and the Hammers seek to secure a European spot, as well as the much talked about bragging rights.

This London derby also has an unpleasant history of antisemitic abuse directed towards Tottenham fans because of their club’s perceived ‘Jewish identity’. Ahead of the game, we are delighted to present recently published research by Dr Emma Poulton, a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Sport at Durham University and member of The Football Collective.  Her article reflects upon antisemitic discourse in English football and in doing so, explains the different uses and meanings of ‘Yid’ in football fan culture.

While many people perceive ‘Yid’ to be an ethnic epithet, Tottenham fans  – both Gentiles and Jews – have, since the 1970s, appropriated and embraced the term, using it to deflect the antisemitic abuse they are targeted with that in its most insidious form references Hitler and the Holocaust. Many Spurs fans today identify as being part of the ‘Yid Army’ and players are heralded with chants of ‘Yiddo! Yiddo!’


The article maps the contested uses of ‘Yid’ on a continuum to explain and distinguish between the nuanced forms of antisemitism in English football by Tottenham fans and opposition fans. Emma makes central the cultural context in which ‘Yid’ is used, together with the intent underpinning its use, since epithets and slurs are not simply determined by their lexical form. These are factors which the Crown Prosecution Service implicitly acknowledged when they dropped the criminal cases against three Tottenham fans for using the term in March 2013.

Emma is critical of Kick It Out and David Baddiel’s 2011 ‘The Y-word’ film, together with The Football Association, who she argues have failed to recognise that words constantly change and evolve in their promotion of a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy to fans’ use of ‘Yid’. She advocates that future policies to combat antisemitism in English football should focus upon the Hitler-ridden hate speech and ‘hissing’ noises of the real perpetrators of antisemitic discourse, not Tottenham fans, who are the victims, yet who continue to demonstrate pride, unity and solidarity between Gentiles and Jews in a positive response to racist abuse.

To read this article click here and to contact the author email: or to link up on Twitter @DrPoults. You will also find more about the author here on her University profile and her other research on Researchgate or Academiaedu.

To cite this article:

Poulton, E. (2016) Towards Understanding: Antisemitism and the Contested Uses and Meanings of ‘Yid’ in English Football. Ethnic and Racial Studies. Epub ahead of print 16 February. DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2016.1140791. Available here.


Links to other relevant research:

Poulton, E. and Durell, O. (2014) Uses and meanings of ‘Yid’ in English football fandom: A case study of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. Epub ahead of print 16 October. DOI: 10.1177/1012690214554844. Available at:

Poulton, E. (2013) ‘Tackle Antisemitism, Not the ‘Yid Army’ Chants’. The Conversation (20 September 2013). Available at:


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