Luton have threatened to ban supporters who are found to have taken part in tragedy chanting during Sunday’s match with Liverpool at Kenilworth Road after the Football Association requested more information from police over the taunts indirectly referencing the Hillsborough disaster.
Luton issued a statement saying they were “saddened” and “extremely disappointed that a small number of supporters soured the occasion with chants that may be interpreted as being in relation to tragedies that have affected Liverpool FC in the past”.
The statement added: “Our safety and security team launched an internal investigation at the earliest opportunity. Any perpetrators could face stadium bans and potential criminal prosecutions.” Luton said they were reviewing CCTV and media footage, while also speaking to witnesses to identify individuals involved.
A section of Luton’s statement suggesting fans may have sung the chants without knowing the full meaning is understood to have not been received well with Liverpool.
“What has quickly become evident is that a number of people may have taken part without knowledge that the words used were in relation to the Hillsborough and Heysel tragedies, and we see the route to persuading supporters not to repeat these chants in future is through communication and education,” Luton’s statement added.
The club also said sorry to their rival fans. “On behalf of all at Luton Town, we would like to wholeheartedly apologise to anyone offended by the chants heard during yesterday’s match,” read the statement.
Luton’s response came after the FA had earlier on Monday asked both the club and police for their observations after the chants were heard during the 1-1 draw.
The taunts were sung by a section of home supporters during the second half and were condemned by the Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, and the former captain Jamie Carragher, who was working for Sky Sports as a pundit at the match. It is understood that Liverpool, who have worked closely with Manchester City and Manchester United fans’ groups in recent seasons on education around the harm tragedy chanting does, have also written to Luton to ask what actions they plan to take.
“We are aware of the tragedy chanting during yesterday’s Premier League fixture between Luton Town and Liverpool, and we are seeking further observations from Luton Town and further detail from the police,” said the FA in a statement on Monday.
“We strongly condemn chanting of this nature and will continue to work closely with our stakeholders across the game, including the clubs, leagues, fan groups and the relevant authorities to proactively address the issue.”
The chanting is believed to have occurred while the game was still goalless shortly after half-time and was one of a number of antagonistic songs aimed at the travelling supporters during a passionate encounter. Klopp and his Luton counterpart Rob Edwards both said they did not hear the chants but the Liverpool manager added: “Shame on everyone who said it”.
“I’ll find out [what was sung] but I can’t comment on it,” said Edwards. “I don’t want to say the wrong thing right now. It’s something I don’t condone, we don’t condone but I won’t say anything at the moment because I haven’t heard that.”
Carragher was critical of the Luton supporters and said mocking the tragedy that saw 97 Liverpool fans lose their lives in 1989 was taking things too far. “As supporters you’ve got to have rivalry, there is no doubt. But we’re better than that,” he said. “It’s happened two or three times in the game. All clubs have been guilty of that over the years at different times. But the world we live in right now, I think we’re better than that.”
The Guardian revealed in April that the Premier League was stepping up its crackdown on tragedy chanting after a marked increase in incidents. A Premier League working group set up this year to tackle the problem, also involving clubs, the Football Association, English Football League and Football Supporters’ Association, consulted the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to discuss what legislation could be used to pursue convictions against alleged perpetrators. It said in a statement: “The Premier League condemns the tragedy-related chanting heard at yesterday’s match between Luton Town and Liverpool. We continue to treat this as an unacceptable issue and are committed to addressing it as a priority. Those found guilty of tragedy-related abuse face an automatic club ban and will be referred to the police.”
As part of the Love Football, Protect the Game initiative agreed by the English game’s authorities on the eve of the current season, regulation changes and tough new measures have been introduced which will lead to those found to have been involved in tragedy-related offences facing stadium bans and potential criminal prosecution.