New police policy set out to tackle ‘frighteningly often’ occurrences of homophobia at football matches

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A new policy for tacking homophobic abuse by football supporters has been set out, which names homophobia as the last major form of discrimination at football mateches, and which, including a “robust prosecution policy” for dealing with both online and offline abuse.

The new guidelines for dealing with football hooligans in England and Wales address homophobic chanting for the first time, and warn that social media abuse of fellow fans or players will result in prosecution.

Despite the number of match-related incidents, the policy sets out a the “robust prosecution policy”, and that those issued banning orders will be unable to attend the 2014 Brazil World Cup, and would affect those hoping to attend Euro 2016 in France.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and the Association of Chief Police Officers released the joint statement today setting out the policy guidance. It includes specific guidelines for dealing with homophobia, and homophobic chanting.

The statement set out that the CPS wants there to continue to be a passionate atmosphere in football grounds, but that action will be taken against those who use discriminatory language.

The CPS said there was a “place for humour in football but where the line between humour and offensive behaviour is crossed then positive action will be taken”.

The lead sports prosecutor at CPS Nick Hawkins said:”In years gone by, racist and homophobic chanting in the stands was an ugly feature of football matches across the country, but I believe we are beginning to see a shift in culture… but hate crime legislation has a large part to play in this ongoing culture change.”

Noting that Brighton and Hove Albion fans were subjected to homophobic abuse at 72% of away games last season, he said such incidents were taking place “frighteningly often”.

Research in May found Brighton fans were on the receiving end of homophobic abuse at 57% of all matches.

Continuing, Mr Hawkins said that most football fans were generally well behaved, and that there had been a rise in the number of families at football games because of “friendlier atmospheres”.

He said: “It’s not just criminality in the stands that will be taken on. Our legal guidance on communications sent by social media clearly sets out how we will approach the abuse of players or fellow supporters online.”

The policy also sets out guidelines for dealing with attacks on players by fans, and the use of fireworks within grounds.

Gay Football Supporters’ Network Campaigns Officer, Ed Connell said: “We’re very pleased to hear that the CPS is taking homophobic chanting seriously and putting it on a par with other forms of abuse. Its also encouraging to see that our report into abuse received by Bright and Hove Albion FC fans has been acknowledged and acted upon by the authorities. As the report shows, the level of homophobic abuse in football is shocking and there is no place for it in our society.”

Darren Bailey, director of governance and regulation for the Football Association, said: “The FA welcomes the CPS’ policy and wholeheartedly supports its ambitions in continuing to make football a safe environment for everyone.”

An organisation established by the FA to eradicate abuse in football including homophobia, last month launched new mobile app which will allow players and fans to report racist or homophobic abuse.