FA unable to prosecute Man Utd, Man City and Nottingham Forest over homophobic chanting

The Football Association (FA) has been unable to proceed with investigations into homophobic chanting by fans of Premier League clubs because the incidents happened prior to the updating of its guidance.

Investigations were launched by the game’s governing body after fans of Manchester United, Manchester City and Nottingham Forest sang the “Chelsea rent boy” chant at various matches in January 2023.

Forest supporters sang the chant at Chelsea on New Year’s Day, United fans aimed the song at Everton manager and a former Chelsea star, Frank Lampard, on 6 January, and City followers did so when their team played the West London club the following day. 

The chant, which is homophobic in nature, has been labelled a crime hate by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and is a source of frustration for the FA, who want to kick it out of the game

On Wednesday (19 July), the Mirror reported that the FA had “quietly dropped” the investigations.

Speaking to PinkNews, an FA employee said the governing body was forced to abandon the investigation because the incidents happened before the FA wrote to clubs on 11 January, informing them the chant was no longer acceptable.

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No action could be taken against the three clubs because there would not have been adequate legal standing to fine or discipline them.

On 11 January, the governing body wrote to clubs across English football, including those in the Premier League and Women’s Super League, to inform them the chant would henceforth be considered a “breach of FA rules” and clubs whose fans use it will face “formal disciplinary action”. 

Wolves v Chelsea match
Wolverhampton Wanderers were fined £100,000 after “prolonged” instances of homophobic chanting from fans. (Getty Images)

However, the FA is already clamping down on homophobic abuse at matches which fall after the CPS decision.

Last week, the FA handed Wolverhampton Wanderers a first-of-its-kind £100,000 fine for failing to prevent their supporters singing the chant during a match with Chelsea in April – well after the updated guidance came into force.

Wolves accepted breaches to FA rule E21 following “a prolonged period of approximately 20 seconds [during which a] large number of supporters” engaged in homophobic chanting.

An action plan was also imposed on Wolves, with the aim of preventing repeat incidents.

In response to the historic fine, anti-discrimination group Football v Homophobia welcomed the sanctions, saying the disciplinary outcome “demonstrates the value of anticipating scenarios, disseminating effective internal and external pre-match communications, putting in place structured match-day protocols and implementing targeted strategies”.

The group added: “As the title of our January statement said, ‘words are not enough’ in football – not least because of the potential for financial and reputational damage arising from incidents of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

“FvH is encouraged to read Wolves’ response to the decision and its reaffirmed commitment to driving LGBTQ+ inclusion collaboratively.

“We look forward to working with all those who share our vision for football spaces in which everyone can enjoy the game and thrive within it.”

In a statement on its website, the FA said: “An independent regulatory commission has imposed an action plan and £100,000 fine on Wolverhampton Wanderers for two breaches of rule E21 that happened during the 61st and 71st minutes of their Premier League game against Chelsea on Saturday 8 April.

“Wolverhampton Wanderers admitted that they failed to ensure their spectators and/or supporters – and anyone purporting to be their supporters or followers – conduct themselves in an orderly fashion, and do not use words or otherwise behave in a way which is improper, offensive, abusive, indecent, or insulting with either express or implied reference to sexual orientation.”

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