Last weekend, Luton Town welcomed Charlton Athletic to Kenilworth Road. Football Lads and Lassies against Fascism (FLAF) decided to leaflet this game in opposition to the far right Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) and their figurehead Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson and is a supporter of the club.
Luton Town is significant because it is one of the most diverse towns in Britain, yet it’s also notorious for being the birthplace of the racist English Defence League (EDL) which was founded by Yaxley-Lennon. At West Brom and Portsmouth away matches a small minority of Luton fans have chanted racist slogans and songs in support of Yaxley-Lennon.
Supporters of FLAF felt it was important to show that these bigots are a small minority and that Yaxley-Lennon has no real support in Luton Town.
The leaflet was produced by FLAF supporters based in Luton. It argued that the DFLA and Yaxley-Lennon are racist and they have nothing but contempt for working class people. It also pointed out that the recent statement from the club was weak and that the club should produce a new statement condemning racists at the club and offering support for anti racist fans who want to drive out the bigots.
We met at a couple of meeting points about 90 minutes before kick off. A group of the Men In Gear or M.I.G’s, the original Luton Town soccer casuals, some trade unionists and Momentum supporters agreed to leaflet different sections of the home support. As we began handing out leaflets we found the overwhelming majority of fans, both men and women, were receptive and took leaflets. We also discovered that a large minority of fans were really delighted that we were there challenging the bigots. This wasn’t the hotbed of racism many had feared.
Some of the fans were saying this is what is needed at the club. There were lots of supportive comments to encourage us to keep up the good work. One couple who go to the away games said that the problem here is a small group of older men in their 50s who are drinking too much and being abusive to other fans during the game. Others agreed that the recent statement from the club was not strong enough.
A number of people stopped us and asked how they could get involved. One elderly Asian fan stopped to help with the leafleting. Another said he liked what we were doing but complained that there was no mention of homophobia in the leaflet. He explained that his two sons are gay and they feel unable to attend Luton Town games because of the poisonous atmosphere created by the bigots. He said that the actions of this minority meant that many other people felt unwelcome at the club. He said he was going to write to the Luton CEO to try and get the bigots banned from the ground.
Just before kick-off, a group young racist Charlton lads tried to break up the leafleting. They were shouting ‘Brexit means Brexit’, ‘Cmon FLAF’ and ‘you’re all a bunch of lefty fascists’! They surrounded the elderly Asian fan and tried to intimidate him. At this point it wasn’t clear who they were but a group of the M.I.G.’s stopped them and moved them along making it clear that we don’t want none of this racist shit at Luton, pointing out that the M.I.G.’s were a united crew. They made it clear to this small group of racists that they weren’t welcome at Luton Town.
We handed out 1000 leaflets, meaning that about one in 8 luton fans got a copy. We got into a lot of great conversations with Luton Town fans who are sick of the shame Yaxley-Lennon has brought to Luton Town and the reputation the bigots bring to the club.
The success we had at Luton Town shows it’s possible for fans who oppose the fascists to organise and leaflet at any club against the DFLA. We are currently encouraging FLAF supporters at Luton Town to join the anti DFLA protest in London on October 13th. Next time we leaflet Luton Town we will have a bigger team as we continue our battle to make Luton Town a club that welcomes all Lutonians.