Image by Sky Sports
By Beth McCowen
Luton Town Football Club has been hit with a £120,000 fine and a two year action plan by the FA.
The club has accepted the charge, which is a consequence of an incident that took place during the Town’s first game of the 2023/24 season on August 12th in Brighton, where a portion of the away side’s fans took part homophobic chanting.
The action taken by the FA in this instance sends a strong message to both clubs and their supporters regarding the importance of stamping out all forms of discrimination.
Luton were promoted to the Premier League, the top tier of football in England, after the 2022/23 season came to an end. Prior to this breakthrough, they had not been a part of the country’s top flight in football since 1992.
The club released a statement addressing the matter on November 23rd. They maintained that “As an inclusive, family-oriented Club, Luton Town abhors abusive chanting such as this and has a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination of all kinds.”
The statement also highlights that “Those involved were committing a criminal offence and anyone subsequently identified will be issued with a Club ban and face potential police investigation.”
The Hatters’ official Twitter account (@LutonTown) shared this news with its followers, further emphasising their stance that “Homophobia, like all forms of discrimination, has no place in football or society.”
Talking about their relationship with LGBTQ+ supporters in light of such disappointing fan behaviour, Luton Town’s statement in response to the FA’s decision elaborates that “Luton Town has worked with supporters in recent seasons to help form the Rainbow Hatters supporters’ group for members of the LGBTQ+ community, who meet regularly to share their experiences of watching the Hatters.”
Recent years have seen a crackdown on dangerous and illegal behaviour from fans. The events in Brighton took place on the first day of the season. In the build-up to its highly-anticipated return, the Premier League was at the centre of discussions surrounding conduct both on and off the pitch. These conversations lead the EFL, Premier League, FA, FSA, PGMOL, LMA and PFA to implement new measures in an effort to address the behaviour of participants as well as supporters. This came in the form of a new campaign, ‘Love Football. Protect the Game’. Luton also expressed their support for this action in their statement.
Jack Pearce, FA vice chair and chair of the National League, said on the new policies implemented this season that “It is vital that football comes together and acts now, to reset the culture within our game. Unfortunately, the game has normalised unacceptable behaviour on and off the pitch in recent seasons and the message is clear; we will not allow this to continue. The National League System fully supports this approach and looks forward to seeing the impact it has across our leagues, ahead of what should be another thrilling season for us all.”
Homophobia is not the only form of discrimination still rife within the men’s football community. These additional measures were introduced largely due to incidents of football tragedy abuse. There is also an argument to be made that more still needs to be done to abolish racism, sexism, and transphobia not just within the Premier League, but in the sporting world as a whole.
Currently, many conversations are being held throughout football’s media regarding the impact of such abuse, and how allyship can go even further to support marginalised communities. Issues like Luton’s are disappointingly common, but a strong reaction from the FA sets a clear precedent for positive change going forward.