GENEVA — FIFA was judged wrong to fine Mexico’s soccer federation for fans chanting gay slurs at opposition goalkeepers at World Cup qualifying games.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport judges hearing Mexico’s appeal accepted the chants were "insulting words," even if fans did not intend to offend, the court said on Thursday when it published the verdict.
"(The words) could still be considered discriminatory or insulting in nature and should not be tolerated in football stadiums," the court said.
However, FIFA was partially blamed for having helped to create a "wrong — but legitimate– understanding" that cases would not be punished.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, FIFA’s disciplinary committee did not pursue the chants by Mexico fans at games.
However, when the 2018 World Cup qualifying program began, FIFA prosecuted what it called "homophobic chants."
Mexico appealed against fines totalling 35,000 Swiss francs ($35,250) for the chants at games against El Salvador in November 2015 and Canada in March 2016.
CAS said it cancelled those fines while upholding warnings which were also imposed by FIFA.
FIFA fines in nine subsequent similar cases at World Cup qualifiers — with fines totalling around an additional 100,000 Swiss francs ($100,700) — remain in force.
Fans in Mexico typically use the chant, which translates as "male prostitute," to insult opposing goalkeepers as they take a goal kick. Widely considered a slur, some argue there is no discriminatory intent.
First popularized in Mexican stadiums, the chant was heard on the global stage in 2014 in Brazil and then spread to fans of some other countries in the Americas.
Last month, FIFA imposed fines totalling 95,000 Swiss francs ($95,600) on the federations of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru for anti-gay chants at recent World Cup qualifiers.
However, Mexico fans at the Confederations Cup in Russia in June responded to requests from FIFA not to chant and no cases were prosecuted.