FvH statement following Wolves’ fine for fans’ homophobic chants

In January 2023, FvH issued a joint statement with Pride in Football, Women in Football and Sports Media LGBT+, on the need for “urgent action” to tackle the alarming rise in incidents of homophobia in English men’s football, with specific reference to discriminatory mass chanting.

We urged professional clubs to “use their platforms” to support and educate fans on the impact of these chants. 

On Friday, the Football Association announced Wolves have been fined £100,000 following two incidents of homophobic mass chanting by a group of home supporters during their Premier League match against Chelsea in April.

An action plan has also been imposed on Wolves, with steps designed to prevent repeat incidents.

FvH welcomes the sanctions. A letter issued to clubs by the FA in January warned them of the risk of formal disciplinary action on this issue and that they have a “responsibility to ensure their spectators conduct themselves in an orderly fashion when attending matches”.

It was rightly noted by the Independent Regulatory Commission in its findings that Wolves did make some efforts to mitigate the risk of discriminatory mass chanting but that this was “all internal… there was a significant lacuna in [the club’s] overall approach”.

For their part, Wolves acknowledged that they could have shared “more specific, pre-match messaging regarding the criminal nature” of the chant in question to its fans.

For well over a decade, FvH has campaigned for clubs, leagues and governing bodies to take proactive steps on education that help to reduce anti-LGBTQ+ language and behaviour.

A collaborative approach is essential and we continue to see the benefits of LGBTQ+ and allies fan groups working closely with their respective clubs to raise greater awareness of inclusion.

This is evidenced by the co-ordinated efforts led by Chelsea Pride and Tottenham’s Proud Lilywhites that resulted in the Crown Prosecution Service recognising that the term ‘rent boy’ is a homophobic slur.

Using the term, such as in a mass chant, discriminates against LGBTQ+ people; makes the majority feel unwelcome in stadiums, along with many people who aren’t themselves LGBTQ+; and excludes all those impacted from enjoying the game. In some instances, these supporters have stopped attending matches.

Today’s disciplinary outcome demonstrates the value of anticipating scenarios, disseminating effective internal and external pre-match communications, putting in place structured matchday protocols, and implementing targeted ED&I strategies.

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.

Football v Homophobia, 14 July 2023