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‘Alarming rise’ in homophobia at football matches sparks call for urgent action

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Two men kissing in front of a scene of football fans

An international initiative is calling for action against homophobia in UK men’s football following a series of “damaging” homophobic incidents in recent weeks. 

A statement released by Football v Homophobia has called on the Football Association (FA), professional clubs, media, police and prosecution authorities to crackdown on homophobia in the sport. 

It follows the offensive chants of “Chelsea rent boy” – classed as homophobic hate speech – being heard at UK matches in recent weeks, with the FA announcing it will fine fans who use it at future games. 

Football v Homophobia’s call for action states: “The number of incidents; the clearly abusive, hurtful and damaging nature of them, and their vocal intensity within stadiums, should be a cause for concern for the entire footballing community.” 

It also requests that football authorities and clubs “make tackling homophobia and wider LGBTIQ-phobia a priority, to prevent a spread of the abuse we have seen”. 

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“The football industry should ensure it is doing all it can to take action.

“Every organisation and governing body should commit internal and external resources to reinforce public messages.”

Co-signatories of the statement include Sports Media LGBT+, Pride in Football and Women in Football. 

Manchester United players, wearing red football uniforms, gather around each other
Manchester United declared homophobia has “no place in football” after homophobic chanting was heard during the team’s match against Everton earlier this month. (Getty)

At the start of January, two Southampton fans were banned from the club’s home stadium over homophobic chanting during a Boxing Day match against Brighton.

During that match, home fans were reportedly heard chanting “up the arse” and “town full of gays”, resulting in a confrontation with an LGBTQ+ supporter.

Manchester United has also promised to tackle homophobia and other forms of discrimination after supporters aimed the”Chelsea rent boy” chant at Everton manager Frank Lampard, a former player at the West London club.

A set of supporters could be heard singing the homophobic chant during the second half of the FA Cup third-round clash at Old Trafford on 6 January.

Similarly, LGBTQ+ Nottingham Forest fans said they felt “unwelcome” at their own stadium after allegations of homophobic chants against Chelsea were made at a game on New Year’s Day.

League One side Burton Albion has also warned that it will not tolerate any form of abuse after some of its own fans were heard using similar slurs at recent matches.

Chelsea player Cesar Azpilicueta claps during the end of a match while a Pride Chelsea flag waves in the background.
The ‘Chelsea rent boy’ chant has been routinely condemned by the FA and various Pride groups. (Getty)

Following the string of incidents involving the ‘Chelsea rent boy’ trope, the FA announced it would begin imposing sanctions against clubs whose fans sang the chant after former football player Paul Boardman admitted to using it during last season’s FA Cup Final.

The FA has routinely condemned the song, telling PinkNews earlier this year it was “determined to drive it out of the game”.

An FA statement read: “We continue to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), as well as the UK Football Policing Unit, in relation to the use of this term.”

The CPS announced it was investigating reported usage of the chant after the incident during the Nottingham Forest game.

It classified the chant as a homophobic hate crime in January 2022 and condemned the excuse that it is “harmless banter.”

PinkNews has contacted the Football Association and the National Police Chief’s Council for comment. 

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