Homophobia in football: FA determined to drive 'rent boy' slur out of the sport, says director Edleen John

Some Liverpool fans used the phrase towards Norwich's Billy Gilmour on Saturday, while there were allegations of homophobic language used by some supporters during Derby and Peterborough's game; FA's Edleen John: "We have to understand that 'rent boy' is on the same level [as racism]"

The 'rent boy' term was directed towards Norwich City's Billy Gilmour by Liverpool fans last weekend
Image: The 'rent boy' slur was directed towards Norwich City's Billy Gilmour by some Liverpool fans last weekend

Edleen John, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Director at the Football Association, says the governing body abhors the "disgusting" use of the 'rent boy' insult and is determined to drive it out of the game.

Norwich, Liverpool, a number of LGBT+ groups and Kick It Out have condemned the use of the term by some Liverpool supporters towards on-loan Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour during the sides' Premier League opener at Carrow Road on Saturday.

The incident occurred hours after Derby's Championship defeat at Peterborough was marred by allegations of homophobia and racism from a minority of away fans.

John told Sky Sports News the slur was comparable to racist abuse, and it is understood that the FA is working with the authorities to get the phrase reclassified as discriminatory.

"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 told Sky Sports News.

"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.

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"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."

The FA is currently 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.

Earlier this 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.

Last October, 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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Kick It Out is football's equality and inclusion organisation - working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.

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