how have Millwall fans become labeled by the press as notoriously
Is it all some
terrible conspiracy by the Press to heap all the problems of
football at the door of one club? I was never a fan of conspiracy
theories, believing more in the cock up theory. And this labeling
of us does seem fall into the cock up category.
Lets get one thing straight
before I delve deeply into the subject. Is there any racist
chanting at Millwall? I would say very little, there are some
people who shout racist things, but chanting is not what an
individual shouts. Chanting is when several people in concert say
or sing something. There have been some incidents of Monkey noises
by a very small minority, mainly centred on Blocks 19/20 of the
You don't hear
renditions of chants such as "You black bastard" or
"Day-Oh" down the Den anymore. They basically
disappeared more than 10 years ago, around the time they
disappeared in the rest of football.
One chant that has taken longer
to die out, is only aired once in a blue moon nowdays is "Oh
East London, is like Bengal, It's like the back streets of
Delhi" The song is not only geographically wrong, Delhi is
hundreds of miles to the Northwest of Bengal. It is also silly, as
South London is not some racially pure area! Perhaps in
recognition of this the final verse is more often sung as "Oh
East London is full of shit, shit and more shit, Oh East London is
full of shit."
Of late we, as Millwall fans,
have been accused of racially abusing Black Gillingham and Palarse
players. This abuse took the form of booing players. However it
can not be denied that a handful of people rather than booing,
made monkey noises.
I do not believe that this noise
carried over the sound of booing at Selhurst Park, so the
accusation form Palarse fans was over the booing, while Millwall
fans in some parts of the ground would not of heard any monkey
noises. The only 'racist' comment of note that I heard shouted at
Palarse was an attempt at humour, "Oi Morrison, you Irish
Cunt!" Morrison, of course, being about as Irish as Tony
Perhaps like you I
don't specifically recall what the chants were at every match I've
attended in the last 20 years, but as Racist chants grate on me,
they do tend to stick in the memory.
I would not include chants like
the ironic "Stand up if you hate Curry" sung at Luton or
"I would rather be a Paki than a Scouse", sung many
years ago at Liverpool as 'Racist chants'.
A racist chant is not
exclusively a combination of a swear word and someone's colour. It
certainly includes anything that portrays people as sub-human
based on their colour or race, such as making monkey noises.
Lets take a high profile match
from the last 10 years where if racist chanting was rife down the
den you would expect to have heard a bucketful. The 1995 FA Cup
tie v Arsenal, Ian Wright simply got personal abuse, "Ian
Wank-Wank-Wank", no hint of hating him for his colour, just
hatred because he was a prat and an ex-Palarse prat to boot!
The Den, unlike some football
certainly not seen bananas thrown at black players, black players
hounded out the club or even a chairman making racist statements
or calling his star striker a cannibal.
So why are Millwall
fans being highlighted as congenitally racist?
It is true that a minority of people down the Den do shout racist
comments from time to time. So, it's not a complete fabrication, It
is, however, a willful exaggeration of the problem.
There is also a confusion or
blurring of the problems of hooliganism and racism. This stems
from the exposť of a small element in Chelsea's firm having links
with a Neo Nazi organisation called Combat 18. The press seem to
assume all hooligan firms have similar links and as Millwall have
a "hooligan problem" we therefore also have a racism
problem. This stereotype of all hooligans as racist, rather than
territorial, is reinforced when there is trouble at England
matches; because it's against foreigners the motivation must be
So when did this
blurring or confusion start?
In 1977 the BBC Panorama
programme was seeking to prove a theory: that football hooliganism
was more than just mindless violence, that it was orchestrated by
the National Front, and that it was rooted in Millwall Football
The National Front's
"national activities organiser", Martin Webster, was
interviewed to lend substance to this claim, and pictures of his
supporters selling fascist literature outside The Den - something
never witnessed before or since- were transmitted to the nation in
Nov 1977. This claim was rubbished by the Police, The Home
Secretary and Millwall Football Club. However the first bit of mud
In the aftermath of trouble at
Luton, March 1985 in the FA Cup. There was no major monstering of
Millwall as racist then, it was written up as a riot, plain and
simple. Perhaps the press noticed the large number of black guys
on the pitch that night throwing seats!
Although in a follow up piece,
Nigel Clarke of the Mirror (who's dad played for Millwall)
couldn't help resist the temptation to blacken the name of
Millwall fans further. He said that perhaps 1,500 of the average
crowd of 6,000 were sympathisers of the British Movement or
National Front and that there were a dozen members of London wing
of Klu Klux Klan. He of course could not substantiate such
guesswork. He was not quite damming all of us, just a quarter!
Fast forward three years to
January 1988 and Millwall's FA cup against Arsenal is labelled the
Battle of Highbury and sited as a reason for the continuing ban of
English Clubs from Europe. The fact that the hysteria surrounding
the match was whipped up by the Mirror with their silly Nick the Clock
story, is ignored even when CCTV footage showed the
trouble was nothing more police overreaction to crowd surges
caused by overcrowding.
Although the press
don't try and Label Millwall 'Thugs' as racist the "Please
God don't let Millwall win promotion" headlines and linking
of the story to possible trouble in Germany for the forthcoming
Euro 88 starts to blur the distinction. The press had been full of
stories about how right wing groups were planning trouble in the
summer and how right wing fans were in contact with similar groups
on the continent.
The crowd trouble that erupts
during the 1988 Euro finals is firmly ascribed by the British
press as orchestrated by Right wing masterminds and this idea of
organised and politically motivated violence is a theme the press
take up as the angle on all new football violence stories.
With Millwall securing promotion
to the old First Division, Reg Burr and Peter Mead went on a charm
offensive, wining and dining Fleet Street editors and reporters
and putting over the positive side of the Football club. This
worked for a while, some positive stories appeared about
Millwall's Community scheme.
Even old enemies such as the
Evening Standard's Peter Mckay write some nice words. "One
man who was more calm than the others said Millwall's hooligans
were no worse and no more numerous, than yobbos who attached
themselves to other clubs. The difference was that Millwall was a
relatively poor club; its area was run down and unfashionable.
No-one outside minded sneering at Millwall and its population of
old working class Londoners. This sounds sentimental, but I think
there is some truth in it." Mckay had tapped into the source
of Millwall's No one likes us siege mentality and got it.
spell in the top flight passed off without much in the way of sensation
headlines as the only major outbreak of trouble at Millwall
coincided with Poll Tax riots.
For a while,
Millwall slipped out of the Press headlines, more often than not
instances of violence were reported as a matter of fact and not
Then in 1993, Millwall moved to
a New ground and the profile of the club was again raised.
Articles such as "Architecture soothe the savage beast"
appeared in the Broadsheets with Reg Burr claiming to have cured
the problems of hooliganism at Millwall by providing modern
facilities for the Fans. It was a silly statement to make and was
bound to be thrown back in his face as soon as something went
1993 was a pivotal year in
Millwall's relationship with the press. Millwall as a football
club had started to be considered as genuine contender for top
flight football again and was being held up as a role model for
other clubs to follow. The start of the 1993/94 season also saw
the launch of the "Kick Racism out of Football" campaign
which saw 85 of the 92 league clubs sign up. One notable absentee
was Neighbours Crystal Palarse. Reg Burr interviewed for
Television at the Kick It Out Launch stated "That racism has
been all but eliminated from Millwall".
Two other notable race relation
events happen in 1993. In April a teenager called Stephen Lawrence
was murdered and then on the 16th September a Council by-election
victory of Derek Beackon for BNP in the Millwall Ward of Tower
Hamlets with a vote of 1,480 a winning margin of just 7 votes.
Steven Howard of The Sun made a
special visit to the Den the Saturday following the by-election to
report on Pat Van Den Hauwe's home debut, and a real piece of
character assassination it was too. But to cap it all he tagged
onto the end of his article the following jibe: "Not long
ago, chairman Reg Burr claimed that 'racism has been all but
eliminated from Millwall'. How odd then that the fascist British
National Party have won its first seat in Tower Hamlets last week,
in the Millwall Ward!"
A curious remark
indeed; Howard hadn't mentioned any racist chants or shouts in his
report, but still smeared Millwall and its supporters by
mentioning an irrelevant council by-election in another part of
town that just happened to have the same name as the football
club-- Millwall -- but had no actual relevance at all.
Of course, the damage was done,
the vast majority of people outside or, indeed, inside London
would have no idea that Millwall FC where based nowhere near
Millwall, and would immediately associate the BNP with the
football club thanks to Howard's remarks. One could not help but
feel if the by-election had been in the Woolwich Arsenal Ward,
there would have been no negative publicity put Arsenal FC's way.
No one mentioned that Bermondsey's MP was Simon Hughes, there
simply isn't any mileage in labelling us a bunch of Liberals.
Soon after one of a growing list
of 'Race equality' busy bodies who seem to have no motive but to
cast Millwall fans is the worst possible light sent a copy of his
correspondence with Reg Burr to the Fanzine When Saturday Comes.
His name was Jakko Jakszyk. He said that he had heard Reg's Burr
claim that Racism had been all but eliminated from Millwall and
went on to recount the experience of his visit to the old Den in
Feburary. He decided to embellish his tales in a fashion that
would be come familiar to us. I have no doubt that he may have
heard an individual or two shout racist abuse. But to pretend that
someone was shouting "Burn him, Burn him" meaning to set
fire to him, rather than someone encouraging a winger to take him
for pace rather undermined the credibility of the piece. He loses
further credibility when he complained of men openly selling
racist literature outside the ground, showing he just assumed that
the Lions Roar and No one likes us not to be respectable fanzines.
He ended his letter stating he would not bother going to the new
ground ironically named Senegal Fields.
Reg Burr's reply went down in
folk lore. Perhaps he just had enough of prats like Jakko.
"The open space sports field upon which we built our new
stadium is owned by the London Borough of Lewisham and was named
by then Senegal Fields."
"I do not think we
will miss you at the New Den and I must say I feel sorry for
somebody who seems to be as sick as you are."
season 1993/94 in third position and so entered the playoffs for a
place in the Premiership. The team was to under perform and lose
the first leg 2-0 and within minutes of the start of the second
leg were 4-0 down on aggregate with the game effectively over. A
couple of pitch invasions ensued, one of which seemed to cost
Millwall a penalty as the referee decided that the game was
interrupted a few seconds before the offence.
After the second
pitch invasion The Derby Manager subbed both black players in his
team, Paul Williams and Gary Charles. The game restarted a few
minutes later, to play out the remaining few minutes and after the
final whistle there was more trouble outside the ground.
The next day the
papers were full of sensational headlines with tales of mobs
of 1,000 on the rampage (40 odd had invaded the pitch!) The papers
were demanding Millwall's blood. They made no mention of the vast
majority of the crowd chanted to the hooligans to get off the
pitch. The next day papers picked up on the race