Passionate fans are as much part of international football (soccer) culture as beer is. With loyal supporters forming big fan groups to support their favorite teams, the games are often filled with high energy, fun, and sometimes rowdy fans. However, homophobic and racist chants and songs from fans has long been a big problem at football matches. These kind of chants and songs have made football into a hostile environment for many fans and athletes of different races, gender identities and sexual orientations.

Some football leagues and organizations have been taking their own steps to change this, including the Belgian Pro-League who has just instituted a new policy and action plan specifically to deal with such racist and homophobic behavior at Belgian football matches. The policy is plain and simple, fans who use racist or homophobic language will be immediately removed from the stadium and banned from attending football matches. They will only be allowed to return to the stadium after taking a course.

The league hopes to discourage and “ban all songs and statements that are discriminating and offensive.” A spokesperson for the Pro-League explained,

“After a series of incidents in recent years, [discriminatory] behaviour can no longer go unpunished.” He added, “At every offensive song that appears in the referee’s report of the football match, the clubs concerned will have to respond to it, without exception.”

The professional club teams will be held accountable for the behavior of their fans and will have to respond appropriately. The Pro-League hopes that the guidelines will expand to amateur clubs and inspire other leagues to enact similar policies.

By Dirk Smith