Two men banned from football grounds for homophobic chanting

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Two Preston North End fans have been banned from the club’s ground for a year and fined by magistrates after they were convicted of public order offences after chanting homophobic slogans during a game in Blackpool in March.

23-year-old Michael Whittle and Lee Walker, 24, both from Preston, were also banned from Blackpool FC’s ground.

PC Lindsey Nottingham, the LGBT liaison officer for Blackpool, told The Citizen:

“Having been part of the policing operation at Bloomfield Road (Blackpool FC’s ground) that day, I can confirm that the nature of some of the chants from the Preston North End fans were derogatory and insulting to members of Blackpool’s LGBT community.

“As such, I later identified Whittle and Walker as being two of the males responsible for instigating and fuelling the chants.

“Their subsequent prosecution and conviction sends out a clear message that there is no place for homophobia either in Blackpool or in the game of football.”

Nine Blackpool FC fans were banned from their home ground for shouting homophobic and racist abuse during the same match against Preston.

Blackpool fans made racist chants mocking the high proportion of Asians that live in Preston.

Two Blackpool fans were convicted of shouting racial chants at the match.

The start of the 2007/08 season saw a change in football ground regulations with homophobic abuse now punishable.

Blackpool is well known for its gay scene and attracts thousands of gay travellers every year.

The FA is under increasing pressure to show their opposition to homophobic behaviour.

It was condemned for refusing to investigate the behaviour of Paul Scholes, who allegedly called a referee a “fucking poof.”

The lesbian and gay pressure group OutRage! has accused the Chief Executive of the Football Association, Brian Barwick, of “arrogance, rudeness and inaction against homophobia.”

However, there have been a number of recent campaigns to crack down on racist and homophobic behaviour during football games.

The FA states on its website:

“Male or female, an individual’s sexual orientation should never be a barrier to people taking part in – and enjoying – our national sport.

“As the guardian of the game in this country, The FA is uniquely placed to tackle issues such as homophobia.

“We can create a supportive, open and inclusive environment by supporting the professional clubs and through our County FA network, which reaches out to every community in the land.

“Conversely, we can – and will continue to – amend the laws of the game to outlaw homophobic behaviour.”

The FA and the Gay Football Supporters Network last year launched a joint initiative to get gay liaison officers into all 92 league clubs to implement the new ground regulations banning homophobic abuse.

In May a campaign was launched to help stamp out homophobia in British football.

It aims to “vindicate the memory of Justin Fashanu, the world’s first openly gay professional footballer.”

A spokesperson for the campaign said:

“The FA, in conjunction with Stonewall and the GFSN, are fighting anti-gay prejudice on the terraces, looking to stamp out the kind of chants that haunted Justin.

“But ten years after his death, which the football world refused to mark, there are still no openly gay professional players or managers.”

A 2006 survey found out that 57% of footballers think that football is homophobic.

The aim of the Justin Campaign is to get the FA to observe Saturday 2nd May 2009 as Justin Fashanu Day.