U.S. Soccer has passed a new policy that bans discriminatory chants at international matches sanctioned or managed by the organization. The news first appeared on Major League Soccer’s official website.
But we have more. A source close to U.S. Soccer shared the policy with Outsports, and notably, it empowers attendees to take action if the chants aren’t properly addressed.
The penalties for clubs whose fans violate the edict are steep, including possible banishment from playing friendlies in the U.S.
While some of the specific wording may be subject to change, here is the gist: Discriminatory chants — defined as any derogatory chant relative to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender — are now “strictly prohibited” at U.S. stadiums. In order to host an international match in the U.S., promoters must agree to implement actions that “prohibit, prevent and eliminate” discriminatory chants.
Failure to address the matter could result in the promoter facing financial penalties and hosting bans.
FIFA has set up a three-tier procedure when these chants are heard, culminating — if it doesn’t stop — with the abandonment of the match.
In order to hold promoters accountable, U.S. Soccer is mandating they post a bond equal to the lesser of 10% of the anticipated paid gate of the match or $1 million. If the promoter doesn’t take appropriate action to stop bigoted chants, U.S. Soccer will use the liquidated damages to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives.
In addition, promoters won’t be able to hold international contests for two years after the first violation. The ban extends to five years after a second violation, and becomes indefinite if a third violation occurs.
That means the stakes are high for venues that host international matches. Last year, a group of fans sued the operators of Soldier Field in Chicago over the repeated use of the homophobic “puto” chant during a 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup match between the U.S. and Mexico.
The fans, four of whom identify as LGBTQ, say they were subjected to an onslaught of homophobic slurs, and management at Soldier Field failed to protect them.
The case is now in federal court.
The new U.S. Soccer policy takes aim at fans of Mexico’s men’s national team, who continually chant “puto” at their matches. Earlier this year, the Mexican Football Federation announced fans who chant gay slurs will be banned from stadiums for five years, but it doesn’t seem as if the edict has made a tangible difference.
Mexico fans chanted “puto” towards the end of a World Cup Qualifier against the U.S. in late March.
As part of the process, teams that play International matches in the U.S. must agree in writing that it will assist the promoter in ensuring discriminatory chants don’t happen, and cooperate in the disciplinary process if they do.
If supporters of their team engage in discriminatory chants — anti-LGBTQ or otherwise — the club will be banned from playing matches on U.S. soil for two years. A second violation will result in a five-year ban, and a third violation will generate a permanent ban.
We may not have to wait long to see the policy be applied. Mexico is facing off against Ecuador at Soldier Field June 5.
A repeat of that happened three years ago could result in a lot more than a lawsuit.