Former England footballer Sol Campbell reportedly faced homophobic chants at a match.
The ex-Arsenal defender, 44, recently became the manager of fourth-tier team Macclesfield Town FC.
However, the team’s match against rival club Cheltenham on January 26 was marred by reports of homophobic abuse.
Cheltenham fan director Dave Beesley confirmed to GloucestershireLive that there had been several reports of homophobia at the match, at Cheltenham’s Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
Sol Campbell targeted with anti-gay chants
Several witnesses alleged that Cheltenham Town fans chanted “disgusting” anti-gay insults aimed at Campbell, but stewards did little to intervene.
One fan tweeted: “The homophobic chants and references towards Sol Campbell was disgusting. Couldn’t see who was doing it. Disappointed that the stewards didn’t seem to do anything.”
Another Cheltenham Town fan added: “Plenty of people who don’t know any CTFC players and seem to have come only to have a go at Sol Campbell.
“I’d like to believe that’s why the chants about Sol were from the olden days, and the language today was far worse than usual. The number of C bombs dropped today was an eye-opener!”
Cheltenham has issued a statement condemning the abuse.
It says: “Cheltenham Town Football Club would like to remind all supporters visiting the Jonny-Rocks Stadium that it is against the law to shout or chant abuse on the grounds of ability or disability; age; gender; gender reassignment; marital status or civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race, nationality or ethnicity; religion or belief; or sexual orientation.
“Under the Equality Act 2010 it is an offence to make reference to the above protected characteristics in abusive terms and doing so could lead to arrest and prosecution.
“The club is currently undertaking a thorough review of matchday operations in line with its Equality Policy and supporters are urged to report any such abuse to the nearest steward as quickly as possible.”
“Stewards will then be required to relay any complaint that involves discriminatory behaviour to the control room immediately for a response to be provided.”
The club added: “The aim of Cheltenham Town FC’s Equality Policy is to promote our own equality objectives and in doing so, help to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and with respect.
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“Football is for everyone; it belongs to and should be enjoyed by anyone who wants to participate in it, whether as a player, official, staff member or spectator.
“Please assist us in making the Jonny-Rocks Stadium a place where everyone can watch football without having to endure discriminatory abuse.”
Sol Campbell: Homophobia and racism made me nearly quit football
Former England footballer Sol Campbell previously revealed that he nearly quit the sport over rumours about his sexuality and jibes about his race.
Speaking in 2014, he told The Times: “You still have the banana jokes. It’s not just colour, fans talk about gas chambers.
“They think they can get away with it and at the moment they can. The homophobia is worse. You still couldn’t come out as a footballer, they have to wait until afterwards. That’s really sad.
“I was dating and had girlfriends, but I wanted to keep football separate.”
“Football allows more unacceptable behaviour than other sports. When the fans pick on an individual player that’s not nice. We need to get to the stage where people in the crowd tell other fans it’s not acceptable,” Campbell added.
“In Britain we pretend it’s not really happening and life is changing slowly, but it is still not a walk in the park for ethnic minorities, gays, women.
“There were moments when it became too much. West Ham at home with Arsenal I couldn’t come out in the second half. It was a chipping effect over the years. I suddenly couldn’t face it.”