Tragedy chants have to be eliminated in the same way as those of a racist and sexist nature, according to Hillsborough survivor.
In the last week, both Manchester City and Chelsea have apologised to Liverpool and their fans after supporters of both clubs sang songs related to the 1989 disaster in which 97 people were killed.
Incidents appear to be on the rise but there currently appears little in the way of deterrents to prevent them.
Club statement on offensive chanting.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 4, 2023
“The apology from Chelsea was good to hear but it’s probably the fifth or sixth one Liverpool have had this season,” Hillsborough survivor Tony O’Neil told the PA news agency.
“Without legislation there is nothing they can do about it. I think it needs to be dealt with like any racial or sexual chanting that happens at games.
“They (perpetrators) need to be ejected from the ground and given some sort of banning order.
“If that doesn’t work then, similar to racism, if these things carry on the referee should be instructed to stop the game and bring the players off the pitch.
“People need to think ‘If we don’t stop doing this, the game is going to be over’. That’s the only sort of action I think will have an effect.”
The chants were particularly audible on the television broadcast during Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge and the concern is that the effect they can have is reaching a wider audience.
“I write it off as idiots in the crowd but knowing the effect it has on other survivors, the families and other people affected by Hillsborough it just needs to stop,” added O’Neil, who has benefited from the work done by the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance.
“It is different for people sat at home hearing those triggers of chants. I’ve had a couple of games this season when I knew the chanting was going to happen and I just gave my ticket to someone else because I didn’t want to put myself in that situation of getting angry about hearing that kind of stuff.
“Being part of the Hillsborough Survivors Alliance (HSA), I hear stories from people who are far more affected by the chanting than me, there is anger and real frustration, and it is a massive trigger for some people.
We will pay tribute to the 97 supporters who lost their lives in the Hillsborough tragedy at this weekend's game against Arsenal at Anfield.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 5, 2023
“On that basis, it just needs to end.”
HSA chairman Peter Scarfe is concerned the number of incidents is on the rise.
“It gets worse game after game. It almost seems like it is a free-for-all for them to sing it because there is no punishment against the people who are actually singing these chants,” he said.
“It’s not banter at all, the effect it is having on members of our group is just unbelievable.
“It’s difficult to talk about the things that people are going through but attempted suicide is one of them.
“People need to know it is not OK to be singing about disasters and deaths and to call us murderers.”
At this weekend’s home match against Arsenal, Liverpool will mark the 34th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster with a minute’s silence, which is likely to be observed impeccably by all present considering the occasion.
However, Joe Blott, chairman of fan group Spirit of Shankly, said widescale understanding had to be applied throughout the year.
“It has reached a peak since Paris (with the chaos at the Champions League final),” said Blott, who is part of a working group with representatives from the Premier League, Football Association, EFL, Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds and Football Supporters Association.
“Whether it’s Liverpool or Leeds with Galatasaray, Manchester United with Munich or QPR and Grenfell – none of this is acceptable.
“It is not necessarily about trying to legislate our way out of this situation. The powers are already there in terms of the Public Order Act.
“What we need is education. It is about providing the opportunity for people to understand the impact of what they are singing.”
An online petition calling for tragedy chanting to be made a criminal offence currently has more than 12,000 signatures.