Friday, 21 March 2014

Proudly Anti-Fascist - An Open Letter to Clapton FC's Chief Executive

Yesterday, Forest Gate based amateur football club Clapton FC posted a statement from its chief executive Vince McBean on its website saying that “over the last 48 hours” it had “received several emails from individuals stating their concerns about some of the supporters at Clapton” - notably, that Clapton's fans are left-wing, anti-fascist and that as a result, they might provoke “EDL style demos” at the club's home ground. McBean's response is completely appalling and so this is the letter I emailed to him this evening.
Dear Mr McBean

Today I saw the 'AntiFa' statement posted on Clapton's website and I was so appalled by it that I felt I had to write to you.

I am one of the new supporters who, as you mention, are joining the club all the time. I've lived in Newham, within walking distance of the Old Spotted Dog, for nearly 25 years but my first game was only a month ago. Like so many others, I found my way to the club through word-of-mouth, after pressure from an old friend who raved about the brilliant atmosphere created by the supporters. When I eventually made it to a match, it turned out that everything I'd been told – about how welcoming the fans are, about their principled stand against racism, homophobia and fascist extremism, about the wit and lack of bigotry in the chanting – turned out to be completely true. That's the reason why I now have a Clapton FC scarf hanging up the front door of my flat.

Your statement issued yesterday mentioned the club's “strong ethos... of not tolerating discrimination or racism of any kind”. It is an ethos I share: since 1992 I have been a management committee member of the Newham Monitoring Project, east London's oldest anti-racist organisation based just down the road from Clapton FC on Harold Road. Our work involves the kind of community-based advice and support for local people suffering racist hate crime that rarely receives enough publicity but it does mean that discrimination and racism are issues I feel extremely qualified to talk about.

And I can tell promise you this: when a bunch of far-right keyboard warriors start making unsubstantiated e-mail threats intended solely to provoke a reaction, the last thing you want to do is take them at their word and issue an apology over some non-existent 'offence' or inappropriate conduct you haven't even investigated.

Actually, that's not entirely correct – the last thing you want to do is to damage and debase your club's reputation by insulting, supposedly in the name of intolerance to “discrimination or racism of any kind,” your loyal and genuinely anti-racist supporters in an desperate attempt to try and appease some obnoxious right-wing extremists.

At the very least, your statement needs removing immediately and amending so that it makes clear that, as far as the club is aware, there is no basis for any of the malicious claims made in the emails you have received. However, I think you also owe an apology to Clapton FC's fans, old and new – the implication that there might actually be some foundation to these ludicrous allegations is an affront to all of us.

I look forward to the removal and amendment of the website statement as a matter of urgency.

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