The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed to Sky Sports News that use of the term 'rent boy' is considered a homophobic slur and is therefore capable of amounting to a hate crime, making those who use it liable to prosecution.
Conor Gallagher, on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, was the latest player to have the chant aimed at him when Palace played at Millwall last Saturday, and the Lions have threatened any fan found guilty of discriminatory abuse with a lifetime ban.
The chant has been aimed at Chelsea players of a number of years and Liverpool, Leeds and Tottenham have all issued statements condemning its use by sections of their support this season.
The FA is bound by what the police and CPS regard as discriminatory language that can lead to prosecution. As with racist language, it is the police that enforce the laws, not the FA.
A CPS spokesperson has since told Sky Sports News it accepts the term is a homophobic slur, adding: "The CPS continues to take racist and homophobic chanting at football matches extremely seriously and is working closely the FA, football clubs and charities to drive this hideous behaviour out of the game.
"The impact on groups attacked by this type of mob behaviour can be devastating. We will not hesitate to prosecute anyone accused of these actions where there is sufficient evidence to do so."
Sky Sports News has contacted the Football Association for comment.
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Speaking to Sky Sports News last August, the FA's equality, diversity and inclusion director, Edleen John, said English football's national governing body is determined to drive use of the term out of the game.
"We absolutely do condemn the use of the word 'rent boy'. It's really negative, it's not welcoming, it doesn't create a sense of belonging, and frankly, it's disgusting," John said.
"We have to understand that 'rent boy' is on the same level [as racism].
"What we have to do is get to a place where the police and CPS systems view it in that same way so that the actions can be taken that we want to see across football and more broadly.
"That's why we continue to work with groups, day-to-day constituents and individuals, the police, and the CPS to make sure that that information is there, that the terminology is really understood and that we can really drive it out of football."
Earlier last year, anti-discrimination campaign groups told Sky Sports News they were urging the FA to reconsider its assessment of the phrase after guidance was issued to a county association that it does not meet the criteria the governing body uses to determine homophobic language.
In October 2020, a local Somerset league game between AFC Shipham and Portishead Town's 'A team' was abandoned after Shipham's players walked off the pitch because a Portishead competitor was alleged to have used the discriminatory insult.
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