Polish football club Legia Warsaw has condemned an anti-gay banner that was displayed by fans at a football game last week.
The club distanced itself from the banner, which was unfurled at Legia Warsaw’s Polish Army stadium during a Friday (March 1) match against Miedź Legnica.
The banner message read; “Warsaw free from faggots,” followed by the crossed-out “LGBT” acronym.
Legia Warsaw: Our stadium is a place for everyone
In a statement to PinkNews, a spokesperson for Legia Warsaw said that its stadium should not be used “to demonstrate any political or ideological ideas.”
The spokesperson said: “[That stadium] is an arena of sports competition whose fundamental value is respect.
“It is also one of the most important values of our Club, this is why we critically assess all forms of behaviour that are contradictory to it.”
The spokesperson continued: “The content of banners hung by fans during matches does not represent the position of the Club (…) Legia has few million fans all over Poland and the stadium is a place for everyone.”
The banner was an apparent response to Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski’s public declaration in support of LGBT+ rights, which has led to a strong backlash in the city.
The club said it did not wish to be involved in the political dispute, adding: “We are appealing to the media not to mix Legia Warsaw with current political and ideological conflicts as part of ongoing election campaigns.
“Using popularity of the Club to publicise this type of dispute is socially harmful, and also unjustifiably affects its reputation.”
Although the club condemned the banner, the statement does not specifically refer to homophobia or sexual orientation.
Polish football fans have long faced a reputation for violent hooliganism associated with far-right politics.
Poland is among Europe’s least tolerant countries for LGBT+ rights
Poland is ranked 38th among 49 European countries when it comes to LGBT+ rights, according to rights group ILGA-Europe’s annual Rainbow Europe index.
The country has little in the way of LGBT+ rights protections, with no recognition of same-sex relationships or adoption and no specific laws that outlaw hate crime.
Discrimination laws also do little to protect LGBT+ people, though the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that no person has the right to deny service to the LGBT+ community.
Intolerance towards LGBT+ people is rife under the country’s right-wing government, with schools forced to cancel inclusive education lessons in October after intervention from the education minister.
In August 2018, Poland’s right-wing Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak called a Pride march in Poznan a “parade of sodomites.”
Blaszczak dismissed the equal rights rally as “another parade of sodomites who are trying to impose their own interpretation of civic rights on other people.”
In July last year, the Minister for Internal Affairs Joachim Brudziński told the police to prosecute LGBT+ people, accusing them of “desecrating” the Polish coat of arms by featuring it on a Pride flag during a march.