How homophobic football chants are addressed under the FIFA Disciplinary Code

Published: Thursday, 03 March 2016. Written by Elaine Banton No Comments

The recent fining of several Latin American countries by FIFA for homophobic chanting1 during 2018 World Cup qualifying games has again placed the spotlight on one of the more unsavoury aspects of the beautiful game.

This piece recaps the facts of these recent incidents, reviews how such behaviour is currently addressed under the FIFA Disciplinary Code2 (the “Code”), and asks more generally whether enough is being done to address homophobia in football.



In January, FIFA handed out substantial fines to the football associations of Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay for homophobic chants by supporters during qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup.

The fines were given by FIFA after studying evidence gathered by its Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System. Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay were each fined CHF 20,000 (£13,900) for single cases while Chile has been fined a total of CHF 70,000 for four cases (£48,600).

In relation to the incidents, FIFA stated:

"All of the proceedings relate to homophobic chants by the respective team's fans, with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee finding the associations to have violated article 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC).3


The Code’s position on homophobic chanting

Article 67 of the Code states:

"Liability for Spectator Conduct

  1. The home association or home club is liable for improper conduct among spectators, regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight, and, depending on the situation, may be fined. Further sanctions may be imposed in the case of serious disturbances.
  2. The visiting association or visiting club is liable for improper conduct among its own group of spectators, regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight, and, depending on the situation, may be fined. Further sanctions may be imposed in the case of serious disturbances. Supporters occupying the away sector of a stadium are regarded as the visiting association’s supporters, unless proven to the contrary.
  3. Improper conduct includes violence towards persons or objects, letting off incendiary devices, throwing missiles, displaying insulting or political slogans in any form uttering insulting words or sounds, or invading the pitch.
  4. The liability described in par. 1 and 2 also includes matches played on neutral ground, especially during final competitions."

By chanting homophobic slurs, the supporters in question offended paragraph 3: “uttering insulting words or sounds.

Although a fine was imposed by FIFA, the article does allow for further sanctions. These, as set out in detail in the Code, could include suspension and banning from matches. The Code also allows for increase in sanction on repeated infringements (Article 40). In this case, however, FIFA chose not to consider further sanctions.

In is noteworthy that the Code contains no specific rule to deal with homophobic chanting or behaviour. Readers will have noted that the breached Article 67 relates to liability for spectator conduct.

Comparison to race discrimination

By way of comparison, specific account is made for race discrimination under “Article 58 Discrimination”. Indeed far more serious penalties are expressly provided for race discrimination under Article 58 paragraph 2a such as a fine of at least CHF 30,000 where supporters’ actions are found to “offend(s)the dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions concerning race, colour, language, religion or origin.

More serious offences may be punished with additional sanctions4 such as “an order to play a match behind closed doors, the forfeit of a match, a points deduction or disqualification from the competition” (Article 58 para 2b) and a stadium ban of at least two years (Article 58 para 3) for spectators proven to have breached this rule.

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About the Author

Elaine Banton

Elaine Banton

Elaine is a barrister and specialist in employment discrimination and sports law at 7 Bedford Row. She is a member of BASL and her practice includes sports law often featuring a discrimination and/or human rights angle. Elaine writes and speaks regularly on sports law matters.
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