Upon hearing that a small minority of Chelsea’s fans marred the arranged silence for the ninety-six people who lost their lives at Hillsborough twenty-three years ago. I seethed. Booing and singing throughout the minute of reflection, Chelsea fans were quick to receive the public indignation of the club and manager. In the ‘modern game’ however, those short statements were and have been simply for appearances sake, as not condemning appalling fan behavior is tantamount to accepting it. I feel this hatred not just because I’m a fanatical Liverpool man, but understandably, because Chelsea fans have added another notch to their belt of disrepute.
When the controversial and outspoken Ken Bates bought Second Division stinkers Chelsea for £1 in 1982, their fans had already garnered a reputation for being extremely volatile. An undercurrent of right wing extremism, stemming from links to the National Front, Combat 18, and groups such as the Ulster Defence Association, worsened their public image. Chelsea’s supporters’ naive and unwavering loyalty to their perennially underachieving team instilled them with a false and unmerited bravado. Having picked up a neat little trick from the streets and firms of Scotland, the ‘Glasgow smile’, the Chelsea Headhunters or Shed Boys became infamous and synonymous with football hooliganism in the United Kingdom.
Cementing this normally unwanted preeminence over the last thirty years has come quite easily to Chelsea’s moronic following. Whether it be sending death threats to retired referees and their families years after their alleged transgressions, ‘supporting’ their beleaguered club captain, unwittingly confirming their links to neo-Nazi groups on national television and subsequently exacting revenge on the undercover journalist responsible for uncovering said information or endangering children and pregnant women while injuring police in some of the largest organised football related violence in the UK since the 1970’s. There are more press releases coming out of the PR room at Chelsea denouncing fan behaviour than there are celebrating Fernando Torres scoring.
Quite simply, the club and the Police can only do so much; setting up an entire task force to simply investigate one incident involving reprobate Chelsea fans is ludicrous. The club can only repeal so many season tickets and memberships and only issue so many bans before their image becomes irreparably toxic. What is it they say about not being able to blame the many for the sins of the few? Something like Liverpool beating Chelsea for the third time in a season and lifting another trophy heals all wounds? I’m getting my sayings muddled.