Two fans have been arrested for repeated homophobic chants at a game between Southampton FC and Brighton & Hove Albion at the weekend, the Justin Campaign said this morning.
A spokesperson for the Justin Campaign said by making two arrests Southampton FC and Hampshire police showed a willingness to act on homophobia rather than give it “tacit support”.
“Homophobic chanting by opposition fans during Brighton & Hove Albion games has, for far too long, been an acceptable part of the Seagulls’ matches, with action rarely taken by the authorities.
“However, in making these two arrests at St. Mary’s, Hampshire Police have shown that it is not acceptable to hurl abuse at a minority who have, for far too long, been excluded from the game we all love.
“Homophobic chanting is not ‘harmless banter’, it is offensive and damaging behaviour which has no place in a football stadium.
“There is now a growing momentum behind the fight against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football, and the actions of Hampshire police and Southampton FC have helped the game take another big step towards true equality in football.
Brighton’s association with the gay community means its football team is often a target for rivals at away games.
John Hewitt, chairman of the Brighton and Hove Albion supporters’ club said: “We get it everywhere we go. There’s a certain amount of banter between fans, but when it crosses that line and becomes offensive it’s not acceptable”.
Speaking at a recent Football Supporters Federation forum, Rick Burrows, Silver Commander of Hampshire Police’s Football Unit said of homophobic chanting: “If it breaches criminal law we will jump on it.
“We need eyes and ears in the crowd and we need supporters to feel confident about challenging it by telling the stewards or the police.
“We will do the rest. If it’s large crowds chanting we’ll put something over on the tannoy and deploy evidence gatherers and then proactively respond.
“What I think needs to happen is that fans need to feel confident to challenge that sort of behaviour.
“Stewards need to actively listen and I think police need to actively listen.”