French football fans who shout homophobic slurs will face heavy fines and possible prison sentences.
The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) announced a new action plan to target homophobic abuse on Monday (May 13), devised in collaboration with the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA).
Beginning next season, spectators will be given forms which they can use to report any sexist, homophobic or racist incidents.
“The LICRA will be able to start the appropriate judicial procedures,” LFP president Nathalie Boy de la Tour told the Associated Press.
“The LICRA will be able to start the appropriate judicial procedures.”
—Nathalie Boy de la Tour
“It will also give a basis to work with to our disciplinary commission.”
Homophobic football fans could face six months in prison
Frederic Potier, the French Government’s special representative on racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination, told AP that any acts “qualified as homophobic can be punished with a €22,500 (£19,500) fine and six months in prison.”
Boy de la Tour added that as with racist abuse, referees are entitles to stop games if players are targeted with homophobic insults, while LFP can deduct points from teams where there are incidents involving anti-LGBT+ discrimination.
The campaign will also focus on educating players and fans, many of whom are not always aware of the meaning of the insults they hear, according to Boy de la Tour.
French football marred by anti-gay chants
Launching on the International Day Against Homophobia Transphobia and Biphobia on March 17, the efforts come after a series of controversies in the French leagues.
On March 17 a match between fierce rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille was marred by homophobic chants.
After initially suggesting that the chants were “part of folklore”, Boy de la Tour was forced to clarify that she “condemns all homophobic words.”
“I’m not excusing what happened, she originally told French-language newspaper Le Parisien, in an interview published on Monday (March 25)
[But] when it comes to homophobic chants, for many fans, it’s part of folklore. This is the reality. The majority of fans don’t feel that they are hurting others.”
Similar chants were heard at second league match between Lens and Valenciennes on April 12, resulting in Lens being fined €50,000 (£43,000) after its fans were found to have used discriminatory language.
“Never had we seen such an important financial sanction,” Boy de la Tour told AP.