Prem clubs agree ways to tackle tragedy chanting

Premier League clubs agreed Wednesday to measures for tackling the rise in tragedy-related chanting at matches, with criminal prosecution of offenders a principal aim.

The move comes in response to incidents of chants and other behavior — often between rival clubs — taunting victims and survivors of soccer-related tragedies.

A Manchester United supporter was arrested following the FA Cup final at Wembley this month after he was seen wearing a soccer shirt that appeared to make an offensive reference to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which led to the death of 97 Liverpool fans.

Manchester City and Chelsea both apologised to Liverpool in recent months for Hillsborough-related chants sung by their fans, and appealed for supporters to stop. United supporters have been targeted repeatedly with chants that reference the Munich air disaster of 1958 in which 23 people died, eight of them players.

The measures, which were agreed to unanimously on Wednesday at the league’s annual general meeting, come after a working group of stakeholders from across the game was established six months ago, and will also look at issues surrounding regulation and enforcement, online abuse and education.

“(These) issues have continued to cause significant distress to the victims’ families, survivors and affected-club supporters, in addition to damaging the reputation of the clubs involved and football in England and Wales,” a Premier League statement read.

“The action will focus on criminal prosecution, the regulatory environment, enforcement, online abuse, education and communications.”

The league also confirmed that it had agreed unanimously to amend its owners’ and directors’ test to prohibit fully leveraged buyouts, in which prospective owners borrow all of the required funds, thus loading the club with debt and interest charges.

The Glazer family’s purchase of Manchester United in 2005 was largely propped up by loans, with the owners strongly criticized in the years since for taking money out of the club to service the debt.

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