Officials at Tottenham Hotspur have defended fans who use the word "yid" after the FA ruled that the term was as offensive as "n****r".

The Premier League club said that supporters did not intend to cause insult by using the term - a derogatory word for a Jewish person - but were deflecting anti-Semitism from other club fans.

"Yid" is used regularly by fans of Spurs, who have a large Jewish following, and is ubiquitous at the club's White Hart Lane ground as well as on social media.

The Football Association claimed that its use was potentially a criminal offence and warned fans that they faced being banned from football grounds for saying it.

Tottenham executives admitted that debate on use of the word was "complex" but pledged to begin consultations with fans over the issue and the "appropriateness and suitability of its continued use".

A club spokesman said: "We are acutely aware of the sensitivity of this issue. Our fans historically adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to 'own' the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term with any deliberate intent to cause offence.

Deflecting or attracting abuse?

"Last season saw a number of incidents where fans were targeted by allegedly far-right activists on the continent and subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by opposition fans.

"Subsequently, the debate on this issue has two key considerations. Firstly, whether or not its use now plays a role in deflecting or attracting unjustified abuse, abuse that is inexcusable on any grounds; and secondly, whether it is liable to cause offence to others, even if unintentionally. Our fans have themselves engaged in this debate following the events of last season.

"We recognise that this is a complex debate and that, in the interests of encouraging a positive and safe environment for all supporters, consideration should be given to the appropriateness and suitability of its continued use."

Jewish group the Board of Deputies welcomed the action by the FA.

However, the word "yid" is a source of solidarity among Spurs fans, which is likely to make any official attempt to stamp out its use a problem. Fan Jamie Witchell said: "If it's derogatory then it is offensive, but if it's said with an embrace, then where is the offence?"