“At its best, Leeds United expresses an inclusive multi-cultural team. At its worst, it’s the opposite,” author Anthony Clavane told British Future following a panel discussion on identity and belonging in Leeds last Sunday.
Clavane believes that a certain amount of tribalism can be a positive way of uniting communities, such as in the rivalry that Leeds United has with Manchester United. ”Leeds United, as the name implies, is trying to unite different sections of the community, because Leeds is very diverse as a city,” he explained.
Growing up as part of the Jewish minority in Leeds has given Clavane an acute, personal understanding of the sense of belonging that football can create. However, this same background as part of an ethnic minority means that Clavane is well aware of the way in which tribalism can go too far and spill over into extremism.
Speaking about how football acts as a reflection of society, he admitted that when it comes to racism “the tribalism of football can accentuate it and at times, as in the 70s and 80s, it can not just accentuate it, it can drive it.”
“When that tribalism is expressed against people who are from minorities, if it’s used to put down those minorities, I think then that tribalism is at its worst.”
Clavane’s new play ‘Promised Land’, based on his book of the same title, delves into Leeds’ long, complicated relationship with football. Clavane explained to British Future that people’s sense of identity in Leeds is so closely linked to its football team because of the city being so large and only having one club.
He said: “In any comparable city in this country, or anywhere else in the world, you’ll get at least two…it has come to express all the different attitudes, and hopes and frustrations of its population.”
Watch the interview below: