sport news FA wade in over abusive chants as statistics show number of complaints are ... trends now
At Old Trafford and the Etihad, there were chants of ‘Chelsea rent boy’. Inside the Cardiff City Stadium came songs about Jimmy Savile. In the away section at Anfield, there were cries of ‘Feed the Scousers’. In other words, it was just another weekend in English football.
Abusive, discriminatory and offensive chanting is a stain on the national game which has been allowed to set in over decades. However, statistics show the number of people reporting the issue is now escalating. And a tipping point appears to have been reached this week, with the FA writing to clubs warning they could be charged for crowd songs – and the Crown Prosecution Service telling fans they face criminal action.
Douglas Mackay, CPS sports lead prosecutor, told Sportsmail: ‘We are horrified that the beautiful game has been marred by hateful and abusive behaviour in recent weeks. While chants create an amazing atmosphere, songs that include homophobic or racist language have no place in the sport.
FA chiefs have written to clubs over the increase in abusive chanting at matches, which were heard at Old Trafford during Manchester United's FA Cup clash with Everton last week
‘This illegal activity can be, and has been, prosecuted, with perpetrators receiving criminal records and football banning orders. The CPS will continue to work closely with the police, football authorities and fan groups to stamp this out.’
Figures exclusively released to Sportsmail show that 123 chants were reported to football’s main anti-discrimination group, Kick It Out, from England’s top four divisions last season. That was more than double the 62 complaints made in the 2019-2020 campaign, which took place in front of full stadiums until the middle of March.
In the first half of this season, 50 chants have already been reported. Separately, Home Office figures show that the number of hate crimes – which include discriminatory chanting – reported at matches last season was 384, up from 287 in 19-20 and 193 in 18-19.
An FA source told Sportsmail they were ‘deeply concerned’ about the frequency of offensive and abusive chanting and that tackling the issue has become a key priority for the governing body. ‘We are determined to stamp this behaviour out,’ added a spokesperson.
Offensive chants were also heard during Manchester City and Chelsea's FA Cup third-round tie
Clubs have been warned by the FA that they could face criminal charges over crowd songs
The problem has particularly come to the fore since the turn of the year, with the ‘Chelsea rent boy’ chant heard clearly at three different televised matches. It was sung by Nottingham Forest and Manchester City fans in their respective recent games against Chelsea, while Manchester United supporters shouted it at Everton manager and Blues legend Frank Lampard during last Friday’s FA Cup clash.
On Wednesday, the FA took the unprecedented step of writing to clubs to remind them they can ‘pursue formal disciplinary action against any club whose supporters engage in discriminatory behaviour, now including the use of the term “rent boy”’.
That comes after the CPS confirmed last year that the ‘rent boy’ chant – which dates back to the 1980s and rumours of a Chelsea hooligan being found in bed with a male prostitute - is a hate crime and they have already convicted and fined one Tottenham and one Liverpool fan for singing it.