The FA has always condemned the use of the homophobic term – which is predominantly aimed at Chelsea, their players and their supporters – but until this week has never felt able to charge clubs whose fans chant it.
That changed when the FA learned of the conviction of a Liverpool fan last month for using that specific term, and so on Wednesday it wrote to clubs warning they could now be penalised.
Chelsea welcomed the move and added: “The ‘rent boy’ chant is intolerable and has no place in football or anywhere else.
“That opposition clubs can now face disciplinary action if their supporters engage in this discriminatory and offensive behaviour is a step in the right direction. Everyone who chooses to participate in this chant must know their actions have consequences.
“Alongside our No To Hate campaign, we will continue to work with the FA, the CPS, opposition clubs, and our own LGBTQI+ supporter group Chelsea Pride in the pursuit of positive change. There is plenty more work to be done, but we won’t rest until football is a game where everyone feels welcome.”
The Crown Prosecution Service classed the use of the term as a hate crime at the start of last year, but it took the conviction of Reds fan Paul Boardman in December for the FA position to change. Boardman was heard chanting the offensive term on his way to Wembley for last season’s FA Cup final against Chelsea and refused entry to the match.
The FA had already been investigating three cases where the chant was heard at matches played this month prior to Wednesday’s announcement.
Two of those involved matches played by Chelsea – their league game away to Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day and their FA Cup game away at Manchester City – and the other was the FA Cup tie between Manchester United and Everton, where the chant was targeted at Everton manager Frank Lampard, a former Chelsea player and manager.