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CPS and FA given all-clear to take action against fans over ‘offensive’ chant

The CPS and FA have been given the all-clear to take new action against fans over the use of an ‘offensive’ chant at matches.

The Crown Prosecution Service have warned that they are ready to take criminal action over the “rent boy” chant which has been heavily condemned this season.

This now paves the way for the Football Association to punish supporters but also sanction individual clubs with the chant becoming increasingly evident this season.

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Supporters at Millwall were heard singing it on Saturday, aiming at Conor Callagher, who is on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea.

Millwall manager Gary Rowett and Palace boss Patrick Vieira both condemned the weekend’s incidents.

“I don’t think either of the clubs want to see any of those moments off the pitch but I am sure both will deal with those situations effectively,” Rowett said.

Vieira added: “We as a football club are against any kind of discrimination and of course this is not something we want to see on the field.”

Millwall later promised a lifetime ban for any fan “found guilty of discriminatory abuse”, with Liverpool, Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur all also forced to issue statements this season after their fans directed “rent boy” chants at Chelsea players, another footballer being Billy Gilmour, currently on loan at Norwich.

A Spurs statement last Thursday said: “The club is extremely disappointed by homophobic chanting from sections of our support at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

“We work closely with our LGBTQ+ fan group Proud Lilywhites to create a welcoming and inclusive environment at our club and are proud to display the Progress Flag in our stadium on matchdays.

“No one should suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity, and we urge supporters not to use this chant.

“Homophobic chanting at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium should be reported by texting HPH and location details to 07537 404821.

“At other stadia, it should be reported to the nearest steward or via the home club’s reporting number.

“There is no place for discrimination at Tottenham Hotspur.”

Proud Lilywhites also appealed to supporters to engage their brains before singing the chant.

A statement read: “We know most fans don’t sing this with any intent to discriminate, ostracise or demean us but the impact it has shouldn’t be underestimated.

“It has been used to victimise young gay men for years.

“Think before you chant, please. We’re Spurs and we’re better than this.”

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The FA have repeatedly suggested that they are powerless to begin issuing disciplinary sanctions against clubs because they believe that the “rent boy” term had not been deemed discriminatory by the CPS.

Police haven’t been able to take criminal action against individual fans. But now the CPS have confirmed to Telegraph Sport that they do regard the term “rent boy” as a homophobic slur which amounts to a hate crime.

The FA takes disciplinary action against clubs when groups of fans take to discriminatory behaviour, such as racist chanting, and the CPS have seemingly issued a new stance which suggests that the same disciplinary process can now be applied to homophobic “rent boy” chants.

Asked specifically about the “rent boy” chant, a CPS spokesperson told The Telegraph: “The CPS continues to take racist and homophobic chanting at football matches extremely seriously and is working closely the FA, football clubs and charities to drive this hideous behaviour out of the game.

“The impact on groups attacked by this type of mob behaviour can be devastating. We will not hesitate to prosecute anyone of these actions where there is sufficient evidence to do so.”

This will be welcomed by fan groups and anti-discriminatory campaigners.

Charity Kick it Out have seen a rise in complaints over the “rent boy” term this campaign, saying that “it is unquestionably homophobic and extremely offensive to the LGBTQ+ community, who make up such an important part of our game”.

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The FA said in 2021 that they were keen to drive the insult out of the game but have also insisted that they must take their lead from what the CPS deems to be discriminatory. They will now be looking on to see if the UK Football Policing Unit does attempt to take individual prosecutions against fans who use the offensive term.

Speaking last August, Edleen John, the FA’s equality, diversity and inclusion director, said that the “rent boy” insult was on the “same level” as racism. “It’s really negative, it’s not welcoming, it doesn’t create a sense of belonging, and frankly it’s disgusting,” she said.

“What we have to do is get to a place where the police and CPS systems view it in that same way so that the actions can be taken that we want to see across football and more broadly.”

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