Manchester United’s LGBTQ+ Supporters Club, known as the Rainbow Devils, has called on fans to refrain from singing offensive chants during the upcoming Premier League match against Chelsea.
The call comes after several incidents of homophobic slurs being directed at individuals associated with Chelsea in previous encounters between the two clubs.
The chants, which surfaced in January during a match at Old Trafford, were aimed at former Everton manager Frank Lampard due to his connection with the Blues.
Recognizing the harmful nature of such chants, the Crown Prosecution Service classified them as homophobic slurs and declared that fans engaging in such behaviour were committing a hate crime.
Legal consequences, including potential prosecution, await those found guilty of using such language.
Eric Najib, chair of the Rainbow Devils, expressed his concern over the situation, emphasizing that offensive chants could easily tarnish the spirit of football.
He pointed out that Manchester United and other clubs boast a repertoire of amazing songs, rendering derogatory chants unnecessary.
Najib’s remarks reflect the desire of LGBTQ+ supporters to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere within the football community.
Lindsay Parr, vice-chair of the Rainbow Devils, further emphasized the need for education to address the issue. Parr asserted that prejudice, including homophobia, racism, and sexism, should not be labelled as mere banter.
She stressed that understanding the history and impact of offensive chants is crucial in realizing why they have no place in football. Parr’s call for education aligns with the broader aim of promoting tolerance and respect within the sport.
This season has witnessed multiple incidents involving homophobic chanting, highlighting the persistent nature of the problem.
In October 2022, homophobic chants were heard during Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United swiftly condemned the chants, emphasizing that homophobia should not find a place in football.
In January 2023, offensive chants resurfaced during the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Chelsea.
Nottingham Forest committed to investigating the chants from a minority of fans, while the Forest group LGBTQ+ Trickies expressed their disappointment and embarrassment over the incident.
The FA Cup tie between Manchester United and Everton in January 2023 also witnessed chanting directed at Frank Lampard, eliciting a response from Manchester United denouncing the abuse.
Most recently, in April 2023, three arrests were made for alleged homophobic chanting during Wolves’ victory over Chelsea at Molineux.
The Football Association charged Wolves for failing to control their fans during a match disrupted by such chants, and the club awaits a sanction for their actions.
These incidents serve as reminders that there is still work to be done in eradicating discrimination from football.
The Rainbow Devils and other LGBTQ+ supporters clubs across the country continue to advocate for an inclusive environment where everyone can enjoy the sport without fear of prejudice.
Through education, awareness, and firm action against offensive behaviour, progress can be made in fostering a football community that celebrates diversity and respects the rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.