Just as recently as August 2019, homophobic chanting is still very much prevalent within professional football. During a match between Nice and Marseille in the French Ligue 1 match came to a halt when Referee Clement Turpin instructed to the players to leave the pitch following the display of homophobic banners in the stands.

At the 27th minute, the match was 0-0 when the match was stopped. While fans and players were initially confused, it became clear via social media that the cause was two banners displayed behind one of the goals. Written in French, the banners display gay slurs and statements. Turpin deemed the banners as homophobic and suspended the match as a result, which is in line with FIFA’s guidelines to encourage refs to stop a match if discrimination, in any form, is present in the stands.

A few days later another match in Brazil against São Paulo and Vasco da Gama also came to a halt when the head referee, Anderson Daranco, heard homophobic chants being used from the stands. After pausing the match, Daronco asked the Vasco team manager to speak up to the crowd to stop the chants.

Unfortunately, the presence of homophobia is still alive and well in professional soccer, and in some cases, it is part of the normalized culture for the fans. Brazil is no stranger to homophobia present within their leagues as FIFA has penalized Brazil’s federation over five instances of homophobic chanting at the 2018 World Cup.

FIFA has been attempting to crackdown on the use of discriminatory language and behavior within its membership, but this has primarily been focused on the use of racist language. However, FIFA’s new disciplinary policies target discrimination on all levels by giving the head referee of a given match autonomy to squash any kind of discriminatory behavior. First, by stopping the match, which if the behavior doesn’t stop then the referee hands the home team a forfeit and the match ends.

It is clear that with these incidences, that referees are serious about doing their part to quell the use of homophobic and other discriminatory behaviors present in professional soccer matches by showing that there are consequences to the teams if they do not stand up against it.

However, it will take time for other referees to come onboard as evidenced by a Premier League match in Albion against Brighton which also had homophobic chanting present from a group of fans. However, that match was not halted and the incident was not recognized well until after the match had concluded in which the Bristol Rovers released a statement condemned the chants.

“Since the conclusion of our Carabao Cup fixture against Brighton, Bristol Rovers have become aware of homophobic chanting targeted at the away end. This is in addition to the unsavoury chanting about the former player, Matty Taylor. 

As a club, we are strongly against these actions and are taking appropriate steps to tackle this issue so it does not happen again.

Homophobic chants are an offence, and incidents like these will be treated as such by the Club. Security Staff and Stewards will look to identify supporters or groups of supporters acting inappropriately whilst within the stadium and once identified will be ejected and appropriate details will be obtained with the help of the Police and appropriate bans will be imposed instantly.

Bristol Rovers is a family club, we take pride in our community and ability to offer a space where everyone, from every walk of life, can feel accepted.

We’d like to thank the vast majority of supporters who have, and continue to, represent the club in the manner we’d all expect.“

Despite this statement, the club nor league announced any kind of actions to discourage such homophobic actions in the future. Despite the chants being commonplace in Premier League games. Hopefully the referees in the Premier League will take inspiration from France and Brazil in applying FIFA’s new policies to take action against it.

By Dirk Smith