Celery has been a Chelsea tradition for the last 40 years, but if it offends, should it be chucked?

Over the course of 25 years, you hear plenty of chants from supporters; most are orthodox, some extremely witty and only a handful have I ever considered overtly offensive. I completely appreciate that people’s views of what this constitutes is subjective and will admit that I didn’t initially consider the ‘rent boys’ slur directed at Chelsea to be as homophobic as I have become to in recent years. 

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 25:  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal holds up a piece of celery thrown by Chelsea fans during the Carling Cup Final match between Chelsea and Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium on February 25, 2007 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 25: Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal holds up a piece of celery thrown by Chelsea fans during the Carling Cup Final match between Chelsea and Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium on February 25, 2007 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

I’ve noticed it a lot this season and was in the stands at the Brentford Community Stadium back in October when an announcement was delivered mid-game, asking the home crowd to stop singing it.  Many more people will have heard Conor Gallagher being subjected to individual abuse in Crystal Palace’s FA Cup clash with Milwall, an early kick-off on a Saturday, on free to air broadcast channels. Whatever it was that finally triggered the Crown Prosecution Service to rule the chant as a hate crime, it was welcomed by the club and Supporter’s Trust.

Which got me thinking about Celery…there are ups and downs to being a female football fan. On the plus side – you rarely get searched on account of there being no female stewards and, on most occasions, the East stand not included, it is relatively quick and easy to use the toilets! But you are never in any doubt that you are in the minority. 

A print of the Celery song available for sale

Long before I knew the words of the song or what they meant I used to shout ‘celery’ along with everyone else I sat alongside in The Shed, which was then, the family stand. As I got older, I heard it for what it was, which is grotesque, and if I said those words in front of my four-year-old nephew, I’m sure that anyone that overheard would be appalled, justifiably. As a woman, when the song is sung, I don’t want to sing along, and I wait until the fans chorus has moved on to something else before re-joining it. 

I’m not particularly precious, I am not offended by anything like “we are the Chelsea boys’, though on reflection I don’t sing that either, I just don’t consider it to be in the same league as Celery. Anything that makes anyone else inside the stadium feel uncomfortable, should be re-evaluated.

Crowds are majority male and always have been, I have no problem with that at all, but there are more things that Chelsea as a club can do to make Stamford Bridge a more appealing or practical possibility for female supporters. I recently looked up the logistics of taking a five-month-old baby to our upcoming game against Plymouth Argyle and was amazed to see that you are expected to pay the full price of a junior ticket, I can’t imagine any responsible adult putting a baby on a fold down plastic chair in the middle of a crowd. In contrast, England Rugby state that for entry to Twickenham Stadium, tickets are not required for under twos.

A woman catching a pitch at a baseball game with her baby in arms in the USA.

Moving On….

I love the introduction of Safe Standing, and it shows an appreciation that supporters come to a game to experience the match differently, and that this is catered to, with a choice is something I have long wanted to see. I hope that the next step is to re-introduce the sale of alcohol in view of the pitch. It hasn’t been a great season so far for crowd trouble, but football fans have been vilified due to the legacy of the 1980’s for too long, when the song originated, I believe.

A lot of things have changed over these 30 to 40 years in football and society. But the Celery song hasn’t. If we want to see positive changes in the regulation of football grounds, the club should be included everyone in auditing and cleaning up what goes on inside its own home. I know, from the sheer number of times I and other female fans have moaned in each seasons survey about the lack of toilets in the East stand, that there’s work to be done here. 

Written by Rosy Cobb (@WeKnowWWA)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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