The horrific homophobic chanting at Chelsea vs West Ham and the pathetic fan response shames the game
To help eradicate discrimination, it's essential that fans report it. In order for that to happen, educating anyone who thinks that behaviour is acceptable needs to be a priority
It is not the first time we've heard it, nor will it be the last, but the negative impact that homophobic chants have on the LGBT+ community, even if they're only meant as "banter" are huge. That is not an excuse. It's not right that anyone should feel so uncomfortable or fearful about going to support the team they love that they may not even want to come at all.
To the LGBT+ community it’s not banter – it’s far more personal than that. It is letting us know that we do not belong among the supporters of the most popular sport in the country and the most popular league in the world. It's about who we are. But the problem of homophobia is much wider than one song. It is discrimination that, like racism and any other form of persecution needs to be stamped out of football for good.
We took to Twitter to voice our concerns, as did our friends at Pride Of Irons – West Ham’s LGBT+ fans’ group. Both clubs are aware of the issue and it’s being investigated, and both clubs have issued statements re-iterating how much they do for the LGBT+ community and how important all supporters are.
We know that, as much as fans want to see an instant reaction from our clubs, investigations of reports of any discrimination take time. But action must be taken by West Ham, just as it should be from Chelsea if it was our own fans involved in such chanting.
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, like all forms of discrimination, need to be taken seriously. Education has a big part to play, both clubs and the fans themselves. Reactions to many of the tweets about Saturday's game suggested that some fans did not see the chanting as homophobic and it is up to clubs to make sure those who attend games are given clear guidance about what is acceptable and what isn't. Fans should also have a responsibility to educate themselves and take the views of other fans on board.
Chelsea FC have always been incredibly supportive of us and are committed to creating an LGBT-inclusive club. We work closely with them to celebrate LGBT+ inclusion across on and off the pitch. This includes rainbow laces games and, beyond matches, joining us at Pride in London. On top, the club has our annual Game For Equality, which promotes diversity and inclusion and makes everyone feel valued throughout the club, stadium and wider community. Clubs across the country, including West Ham, have their own initiatives, as well as ones backed by the FA. They are all important in creating an inclusive atmosphere.
But to help eradicate discrimination, it's essential that fans report it. Recognising and recording hate incidents leads to better investigation and decisive action. And fan education plays a huge role in this – not just from our clubs but the FA, Premier League, Football League and other football authorities. We all need to work together to challenge all forms of discrimination, including homophobia, biphobia and transphobia so that football truly can be for all.