The Acquittal Of The Tottenham Two

15 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   September 17, 2009  |     13

It is an uncomfortable truth that every club seems to have its achilles heel, a bone of contention that shows up the true colours of a certain section of its support, and in the case of Tottenham Hotspur it’s Sol Campbell. Campbell’s defection from White Hart Lane to Highbury in 2001 continues to infuriate Spurs supporters to distraction, and the extent to which this still seems to boil over should be an embarrassment to the club. However, in the case of Ian Trow and (for legal reasons) an unnamed fourteen year old boy, the abuse of Campbell became an issue that they became intimately acquainted with even though it was nothing to do with them.

The incident that sparked what happened to The Tottenham Two came on the 28th of August last year at Fratton Park, during the match between Portsmouth and Spurs. As ever, Sol Campbell was coming in for some pretty vile abuse from a section of the travelling Tottenham support but this time a complaint was made after the match and the police decided to act. They released CCTV pictures of sixteen people that they wanted to speak to over racist and homophobic abuse aimed at Campbell and the pictures were plastered over the media. Of the sixteen, they arrested eleven, nine of whom pleaded guilty as charged and received a mixture of police cautions, fines and banning orders. Trow and the teenager were offered cautions, which they refused to accept as a matter of principle.

The matter was, therefore, put before Portsmouth Magistrates Court in May of this year, where Trow and the teenager were found guilty as charged, fined £500 (plus £400 costs) and given three year football banning orders. The Tottenham Two, however, refused to take this and immediately challenged the rulings, and at a retrial this week the two were acquitted of all charges and had their sentences dropped. What was somewhat surprising was the paucity of evidence against them. The CCTV camera showed the two of them in the area that certain homophobic chanting had been coming from, but Judge Richard Price agreed that, “We can hear the crowd, we can hear the words ‘gay boy’. We can’t be sure those words came from Mr Trow’s mouth. We can’t be sure those words came from the boy’s mouth”. It was, reportedly, all over in minutes.

Immediately upon their arrest, The Tottenham Two were banned from White Hart Lane. While it is commendable of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club to take swift action against those that they believe to have been involved in such incidents, now that they have been acquitted it is surely only right that the club should rescind any sanctions that were ever brought against them. At the time of writing, there has been no notification that this has actually been done yet, although there has been talk that the club has to, for legal reasons, await written confirmation of this from the court service. Mr Trow was also fulsome on his praise for the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, who “who gave some invaluable advice and have been in contact with Spurs during the whole scenario”.

Whether the Hampshire Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service were mendacious or merely incompetent is open to question. It has to be said, however, that this case does cast doubt over the efficacy of CCTV as a tool in dealing with this sort of problem. If a judge can see in the space of a few minutes at a retrial that there is a serious problem with the evidence submitted, the question has to be asked of how these two innocent people were put through this ordeal in the first place. CCTV has been a critical tool on the prevention of hooliganism in and around stadia over the last couple of decades, but there is a tendency to treat it as a panacea for the ills of the terraces which is clearly not as cut and dried as its advocates would like us to believe. Some answers may be found at the civil action that Mr Trow is now bringing against the police.

For all of the above, however, the issue of Sol Campbell is one that needs to be addressed by Spurs supporters themselves. It is not uncommon, even now, to hear defences of people that shout abuse at Campbell on the basis of “the way that he left Spurs and who he went to”, as if this is somehow the greatest crime committed in the entire history of football – it was pretty distasteful, sure, but footballers and football clubs have been behaving badly and treating supporters badly for as long as money has been involved. None of this is a defence of Campbell’s actions in 2001, but Spurs supporters who fall into this trap have to understand that the acceptance of the level of vitriolic abuse aimed at Campbell is the same culture that leads to homophobic and racist abuse. For people of a certain mentality, it’s only a short leap from being “a Judas bastard” to being “a black Judas bastard”, “a gay Judas bastard” or, indeed singing songs about him “swinging from a tree”.

Of course, now that he has signed a contract with Notts County, it is unlikely (though not impossible) that Spurs supporters will see Sol Campbell play in the flesh again (considering what his fitness has been like over the last couple of years, County supporters might not see that much of him themselves). No-one is suggesting that football supporters shouldn’t be allowed to dislike who they want and – within reason – sing or shout what they want, but now might be the time for the Spurs support to put some of this material behind them and concentrate on something else instead. The Tottenham Two have been acquitted and exonerated, and maybe we can all take a step back from the culture of abuse that seems to be eating football alive.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • September 17, 2009 at 2:14 am

    Auntie Beryl

    There is no excuse for those who did abuse Campbell in the way accused. But for those accused him of being a mercenary? I suspect they were close.

  • September 17, 2009 at 5:00 am


    Congratulations for the Tottenham Two for refusing to accept the penalties meted out for expressing disgust at Sol Campbell. By accepting the penalties, these would set a dangerous precedence that Tottenham supporters would not have any right to express their continued disgust at a footballer.

    These penalties are nothing more than a campaign to silence Tottenham supporters from expressing their disgust at Sol, and I must tell you, I am more disgusted at these campaigns than Tottenham fan’s chanting.

    Now, let us take a step back. What is so wrong with using the word “black” or “gay”. As a matter of fact, that is the colour of Sol’s skin and that is strictly descriptive. Why would some people (presumably with so much free time on their hand) equate or infer that with racism? Well, unless you have an agenda to disgrace Tottenham, you probably would not try to infer it. As for “gay”, I do not have much comment as I am not even sure if that is legal in England. But again, why do people start inferring things?

    So, I strongly believe people reacted too strongly to these chants. These chants are nothing but a passionate display of emotions against a former player who walked out of his former club in a way full of displayed with deceit (remember Sol’s behavior and the comments he made while running down the contract). And of course, the words used are not very pleasant – but who expects kind words instead. Mind you, the supporters are not chanting against any Arsenal players – only Sol.

    Lastly, I disagreed with the author that the culture of abused that is eating football alive. It will be the action of legal persecution for passion that is eating football alive. Paying fans have a right to express their emotions and people should not infer anything from it. The sin is the unwanted/uncalled for interpretation of these expression.

  • September 17, 2009 at 5:01 am


    I do not know about other clubs,but Tottenham have certainly had their
    traitors over the years.Most of whom only inspire contempt.Carrick,and Berbatov are prime examples.The actions of Robbie Keane have turned the
    Spurs fans against him.He is one of those players who are inspired by the fans,but his flight to Liverpool where he became a bench-warmer has soured his supporters at WHL.The fact that he is no longer one of the most popular players has shaken his confidence and I think he will look back on these events with a great deal of regret.
    The press’s glorification of this and the above event makes one more careful about which newspaper one buys.

  • September 17, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Mark Rhone

    Jermain Defoe was subjected to vile abuse regarding his dead brother at the West Ham game, but this wasn’t reported in the press

  • September 17, 2009 at 9:01 am


    Sol Sol wherever you may be you not very far from insanity – the song was penned at a time when sol disappeared and it was widely speculated in the press that he was loosing it.

    We dont give a F**k if your hanging from a tree.- This is a reference to KKK ???? – this is the only racist connotation and entirly speculative and spurious.

    You Judas C~@t with HIV – Reference has been given to assertions that Sol is gay, but Spurs supporters have been singing about Patrick Vierra wanting away because Sol wanted a piece of his arse and have you ever seen Sol with a girl. No-one ever quipped at these references to his sexuallity and the song in question only continued that vein of speculation. Is it also anti semetic, surely Judas was a jew or perhaps anti Christian.

    I would suggest that Spurs fans would loose too much sleep if Campbell shed his mortal coil and the reference to tree happily rhymns with HIV. To suggest it is homophobic or racial is ridiculous.

    whilst Spurs has is quota of biggots including racist and homophobics I seriously doubt that many of the fans abusing Sol with this song do so with any thought for those groups.

    I for one consider the songs about Wenger being a peado are in worse taste and for that reason will not sing it

  • September 17, 2009 at 9:02 am

    craig jones

    i dont get it,

    the song that goes “sol sol where ever you may be, wont be long till the lunacy, and i wont give a f*ck when your hanging from a tree your a judas c*nt with hiv”…. is genius, at the time sol campell went missing after a arsenal game, then booked himself into a shrink. spurs fans probably wouldnt care less if he was hanging from a tree (mad people do this!). he is a judas for leaving spurs for “arsenal”. and as for the hiv if he is a homosexual there is a possibility that he will have hiv.

    where is the problem.


  • September 17, 2009 at 10:33 am


    It’s generous of the contributors above to demonstrate the existence of the problem they apparently can’t see.

  • September 17, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Albert Ross

    I tend to agree with ejh – you can’t simply say that certain words are decriptive and not used in a perjorative sense, when the whole point is that they are being used as part of an insult. Saying Peter Tatchell is Gay is descriptive, as he freely and loudly admits it – however couple Gay to an insult and it’s homophobic abuse beyond question. Similarly the use of the word “black”.

    No-one is saying you have to like Sol Campbell, or even stop accusing him of betraying Spurs for the money – dragging in references to his racial origins or (unconfirmed at least) sexual preferences (btw, there are a lot more HIV+ heterosexuals in this world than homosexuals craigjones) makes it a whole new ball game and if you can’t see that, then more fool you.

  • September 18, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Chris Taylor

    Wow. This comments section is quite something.

  • September 18, 2009 at 11:33 am


    Sounds like the right result all round. I just hope everyone learns something from this.

  • September 18, 2009 at 11:35 am


    The comments are indeed something else! Wasn’t Carrick a “traitor” to West Ham first?

  • September 18, 2009 at 2:24 pm


    Arscum – I really wish you do associate yourself with Spurs. Most of us utterly disown your disgusting and ignorant comments.

  • September 18, 2009 at 2:25 pm


    do NOT!

  • September 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm


    The reference to him “hanging from a tree” has no link to the KKK at alll. It’s a reference to Judas who, once he had betrayed Jesus, hung himself.

    How this is racist in the slightest is beyond me, and the people who think so are just showcasing there lack of intelligence!

  • September 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm


    I very much doubt that the sort of person who’d sing those sort of songs has the learning neccessary to know the full details of the Judas story.

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