Romanian football club asked to prove it’s not homophobic with patron saying gays ‘must be kept in enclosures’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The European Court of Justice has criticised Romanian football club, Steaua Bucarest, over years of homophobic comments from its patron and former MEP George Becali.

The 54-year-old millionaire, who took over the ownership of the club in 2003, was given a warning by the Romanian FA in 2011 for cancelling a transfer because he thought the player in question was gay.

“I’d rather dissolve the club than allow a gay to play for Steaua,” Becali said.

In 2006, Becali backed a campaign “to finish off all homosexuals” in Romania.

A year later Becali said: “gays must be kept in enclosures”.

He also described gay people as disease: “I apologise to them” he said. “It’s their problem, their disease, not mine. You ask me if I still think it’s a sin? Of course it’s a sin. I always speak my mind.”

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice warned that Becali’s homophobic comments meant Steaua Bucarest was in danger of presiding over a discriminatory policy, in breach of European rules.

In its ruling, the court said homophobic statements by the patron of a club “may shift the burden of proof onto the club to prove that it does not have a discriminatory recruitment policy.”

Romanian courts will have the final say on the matter following a complaint lodged against Becali in 2010 by an LGBT organisation in the country.

Becali has previously attempted to ban gay pride events in Romania and during 2007 vowed to “get rid of all homosexual and lesbian clubs”.

He also has a long history of making offensive remarks against women and ethnic minorities.

Becali called a black TV presenter an “ape” in 2008 and said women “have no more value” after giving birth.