Fans urged to drop offensive chant

Wednesday 24 May 2023 18:55

Manchester United’s official LGBTQ+ supporters group, Rainbow Devils, has joined the club in calling for an end to homophobic chanting at football matches.

In an interview ahead of this week’s final two Premier League games, chair of Rainbow Devils, Eric Najib, and vice-chair, Lindsay Parr, discussed working alongside the club to promote inclusivity and diversity among the fan base as well as educating supporters on the impact of homophobic abuse.

As the season draws to a close with home fixtures against Chelsea and Fulham before the exciting finale of another Wembley final in the FA Cup against Manchester City, Eric said that he was immensely proud of the feeling of inclusivity among United supporters. However, he recognised there was still work to do to eradicate homophobic behaviour within football stadiums and online.

Najib added that he wants Manchester United fans to learn that the ‘rent boys’ chant – historically sung at fixtures against Chelsea – is not only “offensive to Chelsea fans and players, but also United supporters, allies and other supporters within the LGBTQ+ community”.
Why offensive chanting has to stop Video

Why offensive chanting has to stop

Rainbow Devils vice chair Lindsay Parr and chair Eric Najib call for an end to homophobic chants...

As Eric points out, the ‘rent boys’ chant is now classed by the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) as a hate crime, but both agreed that education is the most important path to altering fans’ behaviour.

Eric continued: “It’s just about educating people so that they realise why it's offensive. We’ve got a long article on our website which explains the history of the term and where it comes from. It is getting less and less year on year, and we applaud the fans who perhaps previously sang it and now think twice before singing it.

“For me, the best thing that's happened to Old Trafford in the last two or three years is down at the Stretford End, with The Red Army and the singing section. The atmosphere here is so much better. All we're saying is, ‘look, let's concentrate on all those amazing songs that we can sing to support the team without resorting to a negative one that is offensive to a lot of people’.”
Lindsay added: “Education is key. We've got to think about our young fans as well. We want them to grow up in a world where we are all equal. And I think when we engage in offensive chants it makes some of our fan base who are here to cheer on the team, it makes them uncomfortable, and it makes them feel like they're not part of it.

“The ‘rent boys’ chant makes people feel excluded, feel hurt and feel not welcome. And that is not just part of the United family, but that is fans from all around the world, at any club. Football is a game for all, and I want everybody to feel included.”

But Eric is seeing progress: “I've been to away games and United fans have actually come up to me and said, ‘look, I'm not going to sing this anymore, please explain to me the connotation of it’. And that's fantastic to see and I am always happy to spend my time educating those fans who want to listen and change their behaviour.

“I was at Brighton only a couple of weeks ago at the game, a city that has a celebrated LGBTQ+ community, and a United fan aimed an offensive chant at one of the players that used to play for Chelsea and was hushed down by fellow United fans. United fans are so good at self-policing at the best of times, but this was a sign of real progress.”

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Fans have been showing their support through online schemes, including ticket donations and round-ups at checkout.

The club today issued email communication to its match going fans celebrating the club’s diverse fan base and the work we have done to reduce incidences of homophobic abuse. The message welcomed the gradual reduction in homophobic chanting, and said it was now time to eradicate it altogether.

Supporters were also reminded that anyone found to be using the chant it is at risk of prosecution and club sanction – including a three-year ban from Old Trafford.
It is recognised that only a small and shrinking proportion of fans use this term, however the club said it was important that everybody in the Manchester United family plays their part in promoting inclusivity and driving discrimination out of our game.

Football is for everyone.