Why the 'Chelsea rent boy' chant is homophobic - Proud Canaries interview
"It was soul destroying."
Billy Gilmour was subject to homophobic chanting from Liverpool fans during their game against Norwich City on Saturday afternoon. The chant in question, 'Chelsea rent boy', is not new and is not only sung by Liverpool fans. But after a long period of football being played behind closed doors, it had not been heard for a long while.
The return of Premier League football saw the return of the casual homophobia that continues to blight football and threatens to spoil the match-going experience of the LGBT+ community.
Liverpool were quick to condemn the abusive chant heard from the away end at Carrow Road.
The chant is offensive and inappropriate - a message we have repeatedly communicated alongside Kop Outs.
We urge supporters to remember the inclusive values of the club and to refrain from using it in the future. https://t.co/67Q5SKoa88
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 14, 2021
Di Cunningham is an organiser with Proud Canaries, Norwich's official LGBT+ fan group, and also founded Three Lions Pride.
She spoke to Reuben Pinder about the origins of the offensive chant, reflecting on how far football has come in the fight against homophobia, and how far there still is to go in eradicating it.
"I was really surprised, to be honest," she tells JOE, reflecting on the moment the chant was first heard on Saturday.
"I know there's been a widespread campaign across all of the LGBT+ fan groups, saying 'When you play Chelsea, if you hear people singing this, just shut it down.
"This [chant] suddenly came out of nowhere, and it was just so soul destroying. It was so disappointing."
But where did the chant come from? Why are Chelsea players specifically targeted with this particular insult.
As Di explains, it began when a Chelsea Headhunter - the name of their old hooligan firm - was seen in bed with a male sex worker.
"There was probably an exposé in the Sun, so it became something associated with Chelsea and something with which other fans could demean Chelsea fans.
"It became a taunt essentially saying, 'Chelsea fans are all gay.'"
Reflecting on the positivity that Di felt at Norwich's penultimate game pre-lockdown in 2020, when Canaries fans celebrated the 40th anniversary of Justin Fashanu's goal against Liverpool, she said the chanting on Saturday reminded her that "maybe not that much has changed."
She explains that, for the most part, attending football matches as an LGBT+ person is much more comfortable than it used to be, but as Saturday showed that "there is a whole host of issues that still need addressing in football."
"Just because fans are starting to feel comfortable, it doesn't mean that it's all sorted."