The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has issued new guidance which says that people who make anti-gay comments at football matches should be subject to criminal charges.

The new approach is expected to be controversial among the country’s football fans, who are well known for their robust approach to taunting opponents.

The guidance tells officers to verbally warn people who shout homophobic statements, and then charge them if they persist.

ACPOS were lobbied by the Gay Police Association.

“We believe it will make a big difference,” Inspector David Lyle, Scottish co-ordinator of the GPA, told The Scotsman newspaper.

“Gay people go to football matches and shouldn’t have to listen to all that abuse.”

The English Football Association has taken steps to eradicate homophobia from the game, with an awareness week and a zero-tolerance attitude towards anti-gay language.

The campaign is similar to the approach the FA took to stamp out racism in football.

The FA’s director of corporate affairs, Simon Johnson, told PinkNews.co.uk: “The FA is leading the way on tackling homophobia in football and our work is becoming recognised across Europe.

“We underline our opposition to homophobia in our football for all strategy along with race and disability discrimination.

“Abuse of any such nature can now be tackled by the FA via sanctions and potential bans.”

In August 2006 two football supporters became the first fans to be convicted of chanting homophobic abuse.

James Monkhouse and Michael Church, followers of Norwich City, were found guilty by Norwich Magistrates Court of disorderly behaviour after reportedly shouting anti-gay chants aimed at Brighton football club fans.

Football supporters clubs in Scotland said they often used words like ‘poof’ without any relation to homosexuality.

“We hate Jimmy Hill, he’s a poof” is a common chant sung by fans supporting Scotland.

Hamish Husband, of the Association of Tartan Army Clubs, told The Scotsman:

“Most of us have sung it, never thinking there was any connection to homosexuality. For us, ‘poof’ meant ‘not as tough as us’.”