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French football boss tells referees to ignore homophobic chants because they’re stopping ‘too many’ matches

Nick Duffy September 8, 2019
French Football Association President Noël Le Graët speaks during the FIFA Closing Press Conference at Stade de Lyon on July 05, 2019 in Lyon, France.

French Football Association President Noël Le Graët speaks during the FIFA Closing Press Conference at Stade de Lyon on July 05, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Elsa/Getty)

The head of the French Football Federation has encouraged referees to ignore homophobic chants and continue playing.

Noël Le Graët, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), made the claim in an interview with Ouest-France, after three games in two weeks were interrupted over anti-gay chants and banners.

French football boss: Too many matches stopped over homophobia

According to France 24, he said: “I think we’re stopping too many matches [because of anti-gay chants]. That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me.

“Football can’t be taken hostage by vulgarity. Matches have been stopped when they shouldn’t have been.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don’t see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

The August 28 football match between OGC Nice and Olympique de Marseille was suspended after Nice supporters unveiled a banner reading 'OM: support an LGBT team to fight against homophobia'
The August 28 football match between OGC Nice and Olympique de Marseille was suspended after Nice supporters unveiled a banner reading ‘OM: support an LGBT team to fight against homophobia’ (VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty)

The football exec said it isn’t his job to tackle the issue, adding: “Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don’t stick their oar in every morning, who don’t want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”

Sports minister: Fight against homophobia is a ‘major concern’

French sport minister Roxana Maracineau, who Le Graët had heavily alluded to in the interview, said she was “astonished” by the comments.

She said in a Facebook post: “The fight against homophobia, and any form of discrimination, is a major concern for this government. The President has personally called it out.

“I have spoken out to say that some of the songs and chants in our stadiums are no longer acceptable because they are stigmatise some of our fellow citizens.

“These songs that were part of the culture in some places must not be tolerated… because homophobic hate speech is a crime, whether it’s intentional or not.

“There are other ways to support your team and I know the supporters are very creative with their slogans!”

Maracineau said that football officials “must commit themselves to this approach.”

Hitting back more directly at Le Graët’s jibes, she added: “Discrediting my words or that of other members of the government does not serve the world of football.

“Let’s get to work together to find solutions. I invite the FFF to make constructive and concrete contributions on this issue at our next meeting.”

 

More: football, France, sport

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