Luton have threatened to ban any supporters who are found to have taken part in ‘tragedy chanting’ during Sunday’s home match against Liverpool.
The Football Association has asked the club – and police – for their observations after taunts indirectly referencing the Hillsborough disaster were heard during the 1-1 draw, while the PA news agency understands Liverpool have also written asking what measures are to be taken.
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”.
We have released a club statement regarding yesterday’s match against Liverpool.
— Luton Town FC (@LutonTown) November 6, 2023
“The club condemns any kind of chanting that knowingly seeks to divide, and our safety and security team launched an internal investigation at the earliest opportunity,” their statement read.
Luton said they were reviewing CCTV evidence to identify individuals, who could face stadium bans and criminal prosecutions.
The club were coming under increasing pressure to make a public statement after intervention from the FA and Liverpool, who have have worked closely with Manchester City and Manchester United fans’ groups in recent seasons on education around the harm caused by tragedy chanting.
However, part of Luton’s statement suggesting fans may have sung the chants without knowing the full meaning of what they were singing is understood to have not been received particularly well on Merseyside.
“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.
“On behalf of all at Luton Town, we would like to wholeheartedly apologise to anyone offended by the chants heard during yesterday’s match, and will continue to work with supporter groups to educate fans on chants that are classed as tragedy abuse by football authorities, the police and CPS.”
Ninety-seven football fans died as a result of a crush at an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough in Sheffield on April 15, 1989.
After the Luton match, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said he did not hear the chanting, which occurred while the game was still goalless shortly after half-time, but added: “Shame on everyone who said it.”
An FA statement read: “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 this issue.”
Former Reds defender Jamie Carragher, who was working at the match as a Sky Sports analyst, said: “As supporters you’ve got to have rivalry, there is no doubt. But we’re better than that.
“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 Premier League also issued its own statement on Monday evening, which read: “The Premier League condemns the tragedy-related chanting heard at yesterday’s match between Luton Town and Liverpool.
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…
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 6, 2023
“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.”
In June, a man who wore a shirt at last season’s FA Cup final which referenced the Hillsborough tragedy was issued with a four-year football banning order.
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.