Football game brought to a stop after fans reveal homophobic banners

A French football league game between Nice and Marseille was suspended after supporters raised two banners bearing homophobic messages.

The banners, unfurled by the Nice fans on Wednesday, 28 August, read: “Welcome to the INEOS group: at Nice we also love to pedal.”

The phrase is a play on words referring to British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who owns both OGC Nice and Team INEOS cycling. The term “pedale” means “to pedal” in French but is also a derogatory term used for gay people.

The second banner criticised the French league authorities for approving more fenced-off sections in the stands. Its meaning translated as: “More fans in the stands means a more gay stadium.”

The banners were accompanied by offensive chants using anti-gay slurs, beginning around the 17th minute of the game.

French referee Clement Turpin gestures to fans before halting the game (Valery Hache/AFP/Getty)

After fans ignored repeated requests to stop the chanting, referee Clement Turpin ordered players from both teams to be escorted from the pitch. This is customary in France, where homophobic songs are banned at football matches.

“The referee was right to stop the match,” said Nice’s manager Patrick Vieira. “These are unacceptable things. The message was clear, and the referee had no choice.

“He might have given us a little more time to try to go to the supporters and ask them to remove the banner – but he explained things that I understand very well.”

France’s equalities minister also applauded the referee, tweeting: “Congratulations to the referee #ClémentTurpin whose commitment to respect for football is known to have interrupted the match #OGCNOM#NiceOM while despite several requests for withdrawal a homophobic banner dirtied the stands. Football is a matter of passion not hate!”

But Nice midfielder Wylan Cyprien disagreed, telling the French broadcaster Canal Plus that suspending the match was the wrong decision.

“We’re not going to stop the game each time some morons do something,” he said. “I’m against all forms of discrimination, [whether it’s] homophobia or racism, but you shouldn’t stop the match for so little. It’s ridiculous.”

The game resumed ten minutes later, with Marseille winning 2-1.

Marseille’s Argentine forward Dario Benedetto celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal (Valery Hache/AFP/Getty)

New regulations tackling discrimination in French football.

‘Homophobic’ songs recently halted another French football game – the Ligue 2 match between Nancy and Le Mans on August 17.

Referee Mehdi Mokhtari stopped play in the first half after home supporters at Stade Mercel Picot refused to stop the chanting.

In May, the Ligue de Football Professionnel announced new plans to target homophobic abuse in French football, and homophobic football fans now face heavy fines and possible prison sentences.

Under the new rules, any acts qualified as homophobic can be punished with a €22,500 (£19,500) fine and up to six months in prison.