Homophobic Chants Rewarded with Arrest, Jason Shaw reports.
Two soccer fans have been arrested in the South of England this weekend for repeated homophobic chants. The two were attending a match between Southampton Football Club and coastal neighbours Brighton & Hove Albion.
“Homophobic chanting by opposition fans during Brighton & Hove Albion games has, for far too long, been an acceptable part of the Seagulls’ matches, with action rarely taken by the authorities” Says a spokesperson for the Justin Campaign, a charity fighting homophobia on the football terraces. “However, in making these two arrests at St. Mary’s, Hampshire Police have shown that it is not acceptable to hurl abuse at a minority who have, for far too long, been excluded from the game we all love”
“Homophobic chanting is not ‘harmless banter’, it is offensive and damaging behaviour which has no place in a football stadium. There is now a growing momentum behind the fight against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football, and the actions of Hampshire police and Southampton FC have helped the game take another big step towards true equality in football”
Earlier this month, fans and officials of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club urged the Football Association to take more action in countering homophobic chants at football grounds. The city of Brighton’s close association with the gay community ensures the football team is often the target for homophobic abuse at away games. “We get it everywhere we go. There’s a certain amount of banter between fans, but when it crosses that line and becomes offensive it’s not acceptable” says John Hewitt, the Brighton and Hove Albion supporters’ club chairman.
Rick Burrows, a commander at Hampshire Police’s Football Unit warned against homophobic chanting: “If it breaches criminal law we will jump on it. We need eyes and ears in the crowd and we need supporters to feel confident about challenging it by telling the stewards or the police. We will do the rest. If it’s large crowds chanting we’ll put something over on the tannoy and deploy evidence gatherers and then proactively respond” He said at a recent conference.
The arrest of these two at Southampton goes a long way of spreading the message that homophobic abuse is as inacceptable as racial abuse. There is a long way to go before both are fully eradicated from the pitch and the terraces, yet we are a lot further forward than we were less than five years ago.