Chelsea’s fans have picked up a few nicknames over the years, some less complimentary than others.
So, in particular, why are Chelsea fans called plastics?
We take a look at that and some of the other names given to their fans and explore the reasons behind them.
So let’s get started…
Why Are Chelsea Fans Called Plastics?
The reference to Chelsea fans being plastic began in 2007 following a comment from Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez before a Champions League semi-final between the two clubs. It hinted at Chelsea fans as being fake and only interested in the club following the recent influx of money and then success as a result of Roman Abramovich buying Chelsea in 2003.
The origin of the phrase plastic fans, in reference to Chelsea supporters, began in 2007, four years after Roman Abramovich bought the club.
Before the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, the Chelsea hierarchy distributed plastic flags for supporters to wave during the match.
Liverpool’s manager at the time, Rafa Benitez said: “We don’t need to give away flags for our fans to wave – our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need. It’s the passion of the fans that helps to win matches – not flags.”
The quote has become part of folklore at Anfield and adorns a wall at their Melwood training centre.
In essence, that quote hints at how fans of other clubs were beginning to view Chelsea, as temporary or fake fans.
The belief is that these plastic fans only started supporting Chelsea after Abramovich pumped his billions into the club.
Of course, at the time Chelsea was one of the first teams to use arguably unethical funding to achieve success, although we have now seen it happen since.
So Abramovich’s millions bought in lots of success, and in the eyes of others, lots of new and ‘plastic’ fans who wouldn’t be interested in Chelsea were it not for the money and resulting league titles, etc.
Now of course Chelsea fans have rightly taken issue with this nickname.
Firstly Chelsea fans are not specifically plastic fans, plastic fans are plastic fans if that makes sense?
They are not limited to one club.
When I was a kid in the 80s, nearly everyone supported Liverpool.
In the 1990s suddenly lots of Manchester United fans sprung up.
In the last decade, Manchester City has been the latest team to have an influx of new fans.
The fact of the matter is success and trophies bring popularity.
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Then there is the fact that Chelsea has a history of a large and devoted following.
They had the biggest crowds in the country from the early 20th century to 1930, despite winning nothing.
They were the first club to average 40,000 crowds and were still getting crowds of 60,000 to 70,000 into the 1960s.
But then problems began to emerge in the 1970s. Chelsea went bankrupt, players left, football hooliganism reared its ugly head, the team dropped into the Second Division and attendances dropped to under 20,000.
Ken Bates was able to buy the club for £1 in 1982.
That period is often used by rival fans as a yardstick to compare Chelsea against today,
So it should be remembered that Chelsea still has the sixth highest average attendance across the history of English football.
Why Are Chelsea Fans Called Pensioners?
Chelsea fans are also referred to at times as Pensioners and, in fact, The Pensioners was a former nickname of the club.
It probably isn’t the most flattering nickname a football team would want, so where did it come from?
It is due to the club’s close association with the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, home of the iconic Chelsea pensioners.
From 1692 to 1955 all army pensions were administered and paid from this hospital, and that is why all army pensioners were referred to as Chelsea Pensioners for a long time.
Today the term has been slightly adapted and now it is only those pensioners who retire to and live at the Royal Hospital who are officially known as Chelsea Pensioners.
The home accommodates around 300 army veterans and provides a chance for any former soldier of the British Army, who is over the age of 65, to live independently in its sheltered housing.
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The Royal Hospital is two miles away from Stamford Bridge and it retains strong links with the club.
Seats are reserved for eight Chelsea Pensioners at home games, but competition is so fierce they have to do a lottery for the tickets each fortnight!
In fact the original Chelsea club crest, from 1905 to 1952, depicted the image of a Chelsea Pensioner and it was during this period that Chelsea were commonly known as the Pensioners.
The nickname and the club crest were dropped though when Ted Drake became manager in 1952.
He felt the Pensioners nickname was an embarrassment and encouraged the use of Chelsea’s other nickname, The Blues. A new club crest was also drawn up.
Nevertheless, the bond between the club and the hospital remains and the famous red jackets of the Chelsea pensioners stand out in a sea of blue on matchdays at Stamford Bridge.
Why Are Chelsea Fans Called Chavs?
Perhaps one of the less fitting nicknames for Chelsea fans on the face of it sees them being called Chavs.
For anyone outside of the UK, a chav is a young person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and usually comes from a lower social class.
However, Chelsea by rights is one of the least ‘chav-like’ places in the UK.
The London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has the highest average house price in London (£1.3million in July 2022).
In fairness, Stamford Bridge is literally just over the border and actually in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, but this still has the fifth highest average house price of all 34 London Boroughs.
We can only assume Chelsea fans are called chavs due to a small proportion of their support becoming known for wearing that ultimate icon of chavvyness, Burberry clothing!
But it is fair to say every fanbase has its share of chavs.
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Why Are Chelsea Fans Called Rent Boys?
This is the nickname with the most negative connotations, but in the interests of thoroughness, I will try and explain it here as unfortunately there are some fans that still use it.
This moniker can probably be divided into three subcategories that explain it.
The first is an incident, apocryphal or otherwise, that apparently happened in the 1980s.
At the time Chelsea had a hooligan firm called the Chelsea Headhunters, and the rumour is that a police raid revealed a Chelsea hooligan in bed with a male prostitute or rent boy as they were known.
When this was reported in the tabloid newspapers, local fans jumped on it.
The Chelsea Headhunters had a famous chant of ‘Chelsea Aggro’ repeated again and again. Rival supporters simply replaced the word ‘aggro’ with rent boys.
The second reason for this particular nickname lies in the fact that the Earl’s Court area in London, which is near Stamford Bridge, gained a reputation as a spot to pick up male prostitutes in the 1960s and 1970s.
And third and finally, after the influx of money bought about by Roman Abramovich buying the club in 2003, players who went to the club were often seen as mercenaries.
With Chelsea not having the same history of winning trophies as Manchester United or Liverpool at this time, money was seen as the determining factor in many players decisions to sign for Chelsea, with their services being ‘rented’ by big wages.
So we’ve rounded up the reason for four nicknames commonly associated with Chelsea fans.
Probably the most common of the four in recent years has been the reference to Chelsea fans as ‘plastic fans’.
This is down mainly to the belief that many Chelsea fans aren’t real fans and only started following Chelsea when money and then success flooded into the club.
Their loyalty and devotion to the club is not permanent, it is plastic is the thought.
Whilst two other nicknames, Chavs and Rent Boys, have less positive connotations, the story behind Chelsea fans being called Pensioners is a much more pleasant tale!