Leeds United condemns disgusting homophobic chants aimed at star Chelsea footballer

Crystal Palace's Conor Gallagher standing on a football pitch during a match against Aston Villa

Leeds United has slammed homophobic abuse from football fans aimed towards Crystal Palace’s Conor Gallagher.

The incident occurred after Gallagher, who is on a season-long loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, played during the first half of a match between the teams on Tuesday (30 November). The match was part of the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign with Stonewall to fight homophobia and encourage LGBT+ inclusion in sport.

However, the atmosphere at the Tuesday match between Leeds and Crystal Palace was anything but accepting. A group of fans chanted “Chelsea rent boy” at the on-loan midfielder during the match at Elland Road.

Leeds United said in a statement that the support from its fans at the game was “magnificent” before condemning those who carried out the “unacceptable” homophobic abuse.

“Once again the fans got behind the team and played a huge part in pushing the players on to get the late winner,” the statement said.

“However, we are aware of a homophobic chant directed at a Crystal Palace player and we want to be very clear that this is unacceptable.”

Leeds United said it would be working closely with its LGBT+ group Marching Out Together among other support groups to “ensure that we do everything within our power to eradicate homophobia and any other form of discrimination from our football club”.

Marching Out Together added that the work it does on promoting inclusion and support for the LGBT+ community has been widely well-received by fans. But it cautioned that work still needs to be done as “unacceptable chanting can still occasionally be heard”.

“The ‘rent boy’ chant last night is one example of that,” the group said. “It is unarguably homophobic and unacceptable at all times.”

The song is rumoured to have originated in the 1980s after newspapers reported that a Chelsea hooligan was found in bed with a male prostitute (or “rent boy”) after a raid by police. According to Marching Out, some football fans believe the chant simply relates to the fact that Chelsea frequently loans out their players.

Sadly, as is the case with many supposed jibes steeped in homophobia, the punchline is based on a judgment that being queer is somehow a source of shame, embarrassment or condemnation.

It is wrong and disgusting to use someone’s sexuality as a form of abuse towards others, and countless LGBT+ football fan groups have tried to eradicate such homophobic abuse from their beloved sport.

In August, the Football Association said it condemned the slur “rent boy”, saying it’s “disgusting” and “doesn’t create a sense of belonging”. Eldeen John, the FA’s equality, diversity and inclusion director, told Sky Sports News that the slur is “on the same level [as racism]”.

Chelsea Pride said in a statement it was “very disappointed” to hear about the homophobic chants aimed towards Conor Gallagher. The LGBT+ group called on clubs and football authorities to “take a stronger stance towards fans who use this language”.

“There is no place for homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football or society,” Chelsea Pride said. “All forms of discrimination need to be kicked out of the game we all love.”