DUNCAN BARKES: Sporting bigots should face a lifetime ban

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I AM not a big football fan but the recent cautioning of two West Ham fans over their alleged anti-Semitic chants makes me wonder why the game fuels such hatred.

A few weekends ago West Ham took on Tottenham Hotspur in a match at Whitehart Lane, Tottenham’s home ground.

The North London club has many Jewish supporters in its ranks. West Ham fans reportedly chanted ‘Adolf Hitler, he’s coming for you’, at the Tottenham fans. Some also made a hissing sound – an apparent mocking of the mass execution of Jews in gas chambers during the Holocaust. Complaints were made to the police and two West Ham fans received cautions.

I appreciate that football is a game of pride and high passion, but at what point does banter become something far more unpleasant? Is the hooliganism of some football fans simply a class issue?

This kind of behaviour does not exist in any other sport. When Wimbledon rolls around there are not scenes of carnage involving flying punnets of strawberries and foul language just because Federer is a couple of sets ahead of Murray, so what is it with football?

In national and international rugby tournaments, rival fans happily sit alongside each other. Can you imagine such a sight at a Premier League football match? It would be a bloodbath. Of course the majority of fans are decent human beings, but you cannot ignore the sinister and vile conduct of a minority that continue to tarnish the game. With alarming regularity there are reports of fans making racial or abusive comments about a player or referee.

So what’s the answer? Personally I think we have to come down very hard on hooligans and reckon that a suitable punishment is a lifelong ban from every football ground in the country. Such a move might just focus their unpleasant minds and make them think twice before opening their ignorant gobs.