Tottenham Hotspur fans have seen the term "Yid" used as a discriminatory term against them.

Story highlights

English football fans could face criminal charges for using an offensive term

The Football Association is warned fans not to use the term "yid"

The word has been used by Jews and to insult them throughout history

English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur has a large Jewish fan base

CNN  — 

English football fans have been warned they face criminal prosecution if they continue to chant a word which has been deemed anti-Semitic.

The English Football Association (FA) have told fans to stop using the word “Yid”, a term which at different times throughout history has been used by Jews and also to abuse them.

Tottenham Hotspur, a north London-based club, are known for having a large number of Jewish supporters. A section of Spurs fans have attempting to reclaim the “Y word” by referring to themselves as the “Yid Army” and chanting it at matches.

But the FA has warned that such practices are no longer acceptable as it continues its fight against discrimination in the English game.

Read: Football grapples with anti-Semitism storm

“We are committed to tackling discrimination in all its forms and that includes anti-Semitic behavior in football,” FA general secretary Alex Horne said in a statement.

“The Y-word has no place in our game and its use in stadiums can result in a football banning order. We are determined that everyone can enjoy football in a fan friendly and safe environment.”

The FA also stated that, while it understands the motives of fans attempting to reclaim an offensive term, it still deems the word a discriminatory slur.

“The FA appreciates that language is a complex issue: the use and meaning of words is constantly evolving,” read a statement.

“This means that, over time, sometimes neutral words or phrases can come to be understood as offensive; and, similarly, words or phrases previously considered as offensive can become more acceptable.

“Although the term derives from the Yiddish word for a Jew, its use in the English language has been, both historically and in contemporary use, derogatory and offensive.

“It is noted that many minority communities have sought to reclaim historic terms of abuse such as this as a means of empowerment. The process of empowerment through reclaiming language is complex and can often divide opinion within the same community.

“In light of the historic and contemporary use of the term, The FA considers that the use of the term ‘Yid’ is likely to be considered offensive by the reasonable observer.”

Read: Anti-Semitic chants mar Spurs match

Speaking on behalf of Maccabi GB, a British charity aimed at promoting Jewish participation in sports, Dave Rich declared the word does not have a place in modern language due to its associations with fascist views of Oswald Mosley, a politician during the early decades of the 20th century.

“The Y-word causes offense to many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, however it is intended,” said Rich.

“Its historic association with Mosley’s fascists and continued use by antisemites outside football mean that it has no place in football grounds or anywhere else.”

Raymond Simonson, chief executive of the Jewish Community Center in London, says he has no problem with fellow Tottenham fans using the word, although he cannot bring himself to say it out loud.

He told CNN World Sport: “I’ve had that word spat at me in the street, had the word scrawled over my exercise book at school and been held up by the scruff of my neck and had that word shouted at me.

“That word has a lot of meaning for me and it’s the reason I can’t say the word.

“The problems with words which have racist connotations is that it’s about context.

“When I go to football matches and I have to listen to fans, a minority mind you, hissing to make the sounds of the gas chambers,I don’t believe anybody can tell me the reason they do it is because some Spurs fans are singing a song about Jermain Defoe which rhymes with the ”y” word.”

Tottenham explained how the uses of the term by their fans was a “defense mechanism” rather than a deliberate attempt to insult the Jewish community.

“Last season saw a number of incidents where fans were targeted by allegedly far-right activists on the continent and subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by opposition fans,” said a club spokesman. “Subsequently, the debate on this issue has two key considerations.

“Firstly, whether or not its use now plays a role in deflecting or attracting unjustified abuse, abuse that is inexcusable on any grounds; and secondly, whether it is liable to cause offense to others even if unintentionally. Our fans have themselves engaged in this debate following the events of last season.

“We recognize that this is a complex debate and that, in the interests of encouraging a positive and safe environment for all supporters, consideration should be given to the appropriateness and suitability of its continued use.

“We are already in the process of engaging with our fans and shall be consulting more widely in due course.”

But Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, believes Tottenham supporters must take more responsibility in tackling the issue.

“We’re not blaming Spurs fans,” he told CNN World Sport.

“But they have to take responsibility. Those same fans would not dare use that word on a Saturday afternoon outside the ground. You cannot have an area of London which is ring fenced for racism or anti-Semitism.”

In recent years, the FA has shown its sensitivity to the concerns of the English football’s Jewish community.

The England national team paid a visit to the World War II concentration camp Auschwitz I in Berkanau ahead of the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine last year.

In October, England manager Roy Hodgson will open the “Four Four Jew” exhibition at the Jewish Museum London.

The exhibition celebrates the Jewish community’s contribution to British football.