What is tragedy chanting in football? Calls for it to end explained

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Nottingham Forest fans will bring a “no tragedy chanting” banner to Anfield

Tragedy chants have to be eliminated in the same way as those of a racist and sexist nature, according to Hillsborough survivor.

Manchester City and Chelsea have apologised in recent weeks to Liverpool and their fans after supporters of both clubs sang songs related to the 1989 disaster in which 97 people were killed. Nottingham Forest fans will unveil a 30ft ‘no tragedy chanting’ banner during their trip to Anfield on Saturday (22 April).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The banner features the message: “Respect the 97. Solidarity with survivors. No to tragedy chanting.”

“The apology from Chelsea was good to hear but it’s probably the fifth or sixth one Liverpool have had this season,” Hillsborough survivor Tony O’Neil told the PA news agency. “Without legislation there is nothing they can do about it. I think it needs to be dealt with like any racial or sexual chanting that happens at games.

“They (perpetrators) need to be ejected from the ground and given some sort of banning order. If that doesn’t work then, similar to racism, if these things carry on the referee should be instructed to stop the game and bring the players off the pitch.

“People need to think ‘If we don’t stop doing this, the game is going to be over’. That’s the only sort of action I think will have an effect.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What is tragedy chanting?

96 football fans were killed by ‘gross negligence’ at HIllsborough in 1996 (Image: Getty Images)96 football fans were killed by ‘gross negligence’ at HIllsborough in 1996 (Image: Getty Images)
96 football fans were killed by ‘gross negligence’ at HIllsborough in 1996 (Image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

A tragedy chant is a song sung by football fans which makes light of a past footballing disasters or fatal accidents. Liverpool supporters have endured chants relating to Hillsborough on multiple occasions during the 2022/23 season.

Tragedy chants could be heard by both Manchester United and Leeds United fans during a game between the sides earlier this year. The chants refered to the Munich air disaster and the murders of two Leeds fans in Istanbull.

The chants are widely condemned, however fans continue to sing them. Sarah Majid, a sports and performance psychology coach told BBC that there a variety of reasons for this.

She said: “A lot of it is alcohol, when you’re drunk and you’re insensitive you don’t really realise what you’re doing. If people were sober and they were in in a football stadium, I don’t think they would be doing them.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Concerns about the rise in tragedy chants

Hillsborough Survivors Alliance chairman Peter Scarfe is concerned the number of incidents is on the rise. “It gets worse game after game. It almost seems like it is a free-for-all for them to sing it because there is no punishment against the people who are actually singing these chants,” he said.

“It’s not banter at all, the effect it is having on members of our group is just unbelievable. It’s difficult to talk about the things that people are going through but attempted suicide is one of them. People need to know it is not OK to be singing about disasters and deaths and to call us murderers.”

Joe Blott, chairman of fan group Spirit of Shankly, who is part of a working group with representatives from the Premier League, Football Association, EFL, Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds and Football Supporters Association, said: “Whether it’s Liverpool or Leeds with Galatasaray, Manchester United with Munich or QPR and Grenfell – none of this is acceptable.

“It is not necessarily about trying to legislate our way out of this situation. The powers are already there in terms of the Public Order Act. What we need is education. It is about providing the opportunity for people to understand the impact of what they are singing.”

An online petition calling for tragedy chanting to be made a criminal offence has been signed by tens of thousands people.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.