Leeds United have been hit with a £150,000 fine (US $191,370) after a “very significant number” of their supporters sung chants deemed to be discriminatory in the direction of visiting Brighton fans in a match at Elland Road towards the end of last season.
The game ended 2-2. The Yorkshire club would go on to be relegated from the Premier League to the second-tier Championship two months later, while Brighton were sixth - their highest-ever finish.
It’s a record fine from the Football Association - English football’s governing body - for homophobic chanting, surpassing a £100,000 penalty handed down to Wolves last month when some of their fans repeatedly sang the infamous ‘rent boy’ chant against Chelsea in April.
An independent Regulatory Commission has imposed an action plan and £150,000 fine on @LUFC for misconduct in relation to crowd control.— FA Spokesperson (@FAspokesperson) August 17, 2023
Full statement and written reasons: https://t.co/j76pLrOYNH pic.twitter.com/vnDZNOsL5u
Discriminatory chants of this nature that are anti-LGBTQ are being taken more seriously by the FA since a change in advice from the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service - which prosecutes cases investigated by the police - prompted a clampdown from the football authorities.
The outcomes are explained in documents made public by the FA, produced by the independent regulatory commission for each case.
As for the outcome of the incident in the Leeds game, the document states that:
“During the first half of the match, the offensive chanting by Leeds supporters included the chants ‘does your boyfriend know you’re here’ and ‘you’re going down on your boyfriend.’”
The latter chant was likely in response to Brighton fans singing “going down” towards their relegation-threatened hosts.
Video footage of Leeds supporters showed the two phrases were “repeatedly” chanted, with the panel noting: “The use… is obviously and plainly discriminatory and highly derogatory.
“The chanting is highly abusive and offensive to those right-thinking people who heard it or came to know of its use in these circumstances.”
Leeds accepted the punishment and pledged to work harder to combat this form of discrimination, working alongside its LGBTQ supporters group Marching Out Together.
In a statement, the club said: “Over recent years we have worked hard to eradicate homophobia in our community with the launch of Marching Out Together, sponsorship of Leeds Pride and various activities in local schools.
“Clearly our efforts have not been enough and we need to increase the work we are doing with our fanbase to ensure everyone is clear that any form of homophobia and discriminative chanting will not be accepted at Leeds United.”
Marching Out Together posted a statement of their own later on Thursday, emphasizing how club staff have worked with them in mutual efforts to make Elland Road a more inclusive environment for spectators.
The group added: “We also believe that the increased attention and reporting of such incidents reflect a growing awareness of the issue and recognition by the vast majority of fair-minded supporters that such behaviour can no longer be dismissed or passed off as ‘just banter’.”
We are aware of the @FA decision today to sanction @LUFC for homophobic chanting at our match against Brighton in March and note the Club’s response.— Marching Out Together (@MarchingoutLUFC) August 17, 2023
Please see our website to read our statement: https://t.co/WypNy2N3S9 #MOT #ALAW ⚽ ️ pic.twitter.com/9Jx2nOe348
The FA also imposed an action plan on Leeds with suggestions of practical measures that the club should take to mitigate the chance of repeat occurrences.
As with the recent case involving Wolves, one instruction in the action plan is to clearly warn supporters that any discriminatory chanting is unacceptable and could even result in criminal charges.
The 2023/4 season has only just kicked off in England but with tolerance levels now approaching zero when it comes to abuse from fans, this could be the campaign in which football’s birthplace finally gets to grips with its homophobia problem.