Homophobic British football fans are being warned they will face prosecution under new police guidelines.
For the first time, anti-gay slurs are being included in a Crown Prosecution Service policy in soccer-related offences.
Police say including homophobic abuse in its ‘refreshed’ policy will make anti-gay chants as ‘unacceptable’ as racism.
So not only at matches, where many LGBT fans have complained of a homophobic environment, but police will also look to tackle online abuse in football forums.
In a joint statement with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the CPS warned one of the punishments for abusive chanting, a Football Banning Order (FBO), had a minimum length of three years and would mean offenders missing the Brazil World Cup and Euro 2016.
‘We recognize, as do the overwhelming majority of decent fans, that there is a place for humor in football but where the line between humor and offensive behavior is crossed then positive action will be taken,’ they said.
Chris Basiurski, chair of the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, said he welcomed the new policies.
Speaking to Gay Star News, he said: ‘It’s sending a really good message out there to the fans. If you’re homophobic, you could get in trouble not only with the club but with the police.’
He told us he had been told by police of a time when football fans had been arrested by police for using homophobic slurs at a match, and when they were being questioned, they said they were not breaking the law as they were not being racist.
‘They were very surprised to hear they could get in trouble for it,’ Basiurski said.
With the CPS bringing this new policy in, the GFSN chair said we could be getting closer to the point where a British footballer comes out as gay.
As many previous reports indicate, it is the homophobic fans that appear to be keeping that closet door shut for many soccer stars.
Basiurski said: ‘A lot of work needs to be done to create that environment, where people can come out. This is a step towards that.
‘This is way of saying, “Be aware you can be prosecuted, you could get a banning order.”
He added: ‘It’s a victory for the people who have been campaigning against homophobia, for the people who have been subject to this abuse for some time.’