Internet forums for football fans contain shocking attitudes towards homosexuality, a study suggests.

The research, carried out by LGBT and sports campaigner Lindsay England, looked at 8,000 forum threads containing homophobic abuse.

More than 1,500 contained strong abuse, with some fans calling homosexuality “brain damage of some sort” or “a disease”.

Other users said gays should be “stoned to death” and one wrote: “all gays should die”.

The research also found “soft” homophobia, in the form of statements such as: “I don’t want any gay trying to cop off with me when I play” and ““What’s the problem with homophobia it’s a bit of banter and no worse than calling a player fat or a wanker”.

Currently, the UK has no top-level openly gay footballers, despite publicist Max Clifford saying he knows of “at least a dozen” who are in the closet.

Campaigner Lindsay England, who carried out the survey over four months last year, concluded that many gay and straight people are reluctant to deal with homophobia in football.

She wrote: “Casual homophobia feeds peer group pressure which can build up to verbal and physical abuse and harassment towards LGBT [people] and gives the impression that this behaviour is acceptable. Football needs then to try to nip things in the bud, through fans groups, fans forums, message boards and websites.

“Many fans who attend games are of the understanding that as they have not experienced or witnessed any homophobia themselves it’s not really a serious issue. Those who do hear comments or chants think it is only banter.”

Supporting the research, Alan Duffy of The Justin Campaign said: “[We are] very concerned at the high frequency of homophobic remarks made by football fans on message boards.

“With the likes of Anton Hysen coming out and The FA entering into a partnership with The Justin Campaign, we are finally starting to move things forward. However, the large amount of ugly, casual homophobic abuse peppering the internet shows just how much work we still have to do.”