Hate week - Merseyside police special

Last updated : 15 January 2009 By Les Roberts

So Merseyside police have kindly stepped in to remind everyone that they should instead be concentrating on ripping the back out of each other and each team's players.

Both sets of fans have been warned that they could be prosecuted for "criminal chanting" at this month's two Merseyside derbies and one song in particular, take your pick I say, is of concern to police.

This comes just days after 11 Tottenham fans were arrested and charged with indecent chanting during September's Portsmouth v Tottenham match.

The chants were said to be racist and homophobic and aimed at Portsmouth's Sol Campbell, a player Spurs' fans have never forgiven for defecting to Arsenal a number of years ago.

And, as racist or homophobic incitement are criminal offences, this seems to have the weight of the law behind it.

But, though both Everton and Liverpool fans do have some nasty chants, I'm at pains to think of any that are racist or homophobic.

Which then begs the question, what exactly could the police justifiably arrest a fan for if their chanting is neither racist nor homophobic?

I'm no legal expert, in fact I don't even know my statutory rights, but I don't think that questioning the legitimacy of someone's parentage, as Evertonians have done with Steven Gerrard, or highlighting a players' child's disability, as Liverpool fans have done towards Lee Carsley, no matter how vile and unsavoury, are actullay criminal offences.

You can be sued for defamation of character but it's not an arrestable offence.

But what do I know?

Merseyside police are in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service and have warned fans that they could be charged with singing inappropriate songs.

So anyone thinking of belting out some James Blunt at the derby had better watch it else they'll be getting their collars felt!

The whole thing smacks to me of the police trying to be seen to be doing something proactive ahead of what could be two very volatile games in the space of a week.

And I don't know if it's just me but I can't help feeling that their focus will be on Everton fans and the chants directed towards Steven Gerrard, particularly as he's up before the beak (did Fowler pop into anyone else's mind then?!) next week on account of his involvement in that incident in Southport.

We're clearly more high profile in this respect, particularly as Liverpool are past masters at re-writing history and after Benitez did his throwing stones in glass houses routine last season, but this shouldn't mean that our loveable neighbours get off lightly.

For every song we have regarding Gerrard, Fowler or Heysel, they have one about Carsley, Lescott or Munich.

And, make no mistake, had Everton been involved in a tragedy such as Heysel then Liverpool would be quick enough to jump on it and beat us with it.

And let's hope that the police and stewards at Anfield are more alert to any potential assaults on players this season!

Game on!