A European Court of Justice preliminary ruling on the homophobic conduct of a football club owner in Romania has been welcomed by a European parliamentary LGBT group.

In 2011, George Becali, former MEP and the current owner of the Steaua București football club, cancelled a transfer because he thought the player in question was gay.

“I’d rather dissolve the club than allow a gay to play for Steaua,” Becali said.

In 2007, Becali said: “gays must be kept in enclosures”.

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice warned that Becali’s homophobic comments meant Steaua Bucarest was in danger of presiding over a discriminatory policy.

EU Directive 2000/78 prohibits discrimination in employment, including on the basis of sexual orientation.

The EU Court of Justice explained that even though Becali doesn’t formally employ his club’s players, his negative statements towards gay men could indicate a bias from his club.

The court said homophobic statements by the patron of a club “may shift the burden of proof onto the club to prove that it does not have a discriminatory recruitment policy.”

Spanish MEP Raül Romeva i Rueda, vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup said: “This shows the importance of EU anti-discrimination law. Currently such discrimination is forbidden in employment only, but we can see how necessary such a law would be outside of employment.”

Romanian MEP Renate Weber added: “I wholeheartedly welcome the court’s interpretation. From the very beginning my understanding of this directive was that employers could not discriminate, even if only in words. Every employer must behave accordingly, and even more so when they are a politician and Member of Parliament.”

Courts in Romania will have the final say on the case.