Football fans charged and banned from live events over homophobic abuse

A crowd of football fans.

Two separate incidents of homophobia during football matches have ended in several-year-long bans for supporters.

Two football fans were respectively charged with various offences related to homophobic abuse towards fans and players, amid calls to crack down on bigoted behaviour in the sport.

In Bournemouth, 47-year-old Paul Bignell was fined and sentenced to a four-year ban from attending football matches in the UK.

The Millwall fan was reprimanded by pitch officials during an AFC Bournemouth v AFC Millwall match in May 2022, after he was witnessed hurling homophobic abuse towards Bournemouth fans.

After he began directing abuse towards a female steward who challenged him on his rhetoric, officials notified Dorset police, who subsequently arrested Bignell.

He denied the offence upon his arrest and up until the end of his trial, where he was found guilty of intent to cause harassment, alarm and distress and sentenced on Friday (28 April).

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Lead prosecutor Douglas Mackay warned those intending to hurl homophobic abuse at football matches should “expect to be prosecuted and be banned from watching the sport live”.

He added: “Abuse and homophobia excludes fans from enjoying the game. Football is an inclusive sport and there is no place for homophobic abuse in our stadiums.”

Brighton and Hove player wears a rainbow armband.
The FA has condemned homophobic abuse hurled towards football fans and players. (Getty)

In Brighton, Nottingham Forest fan James Grainger-Brown was charged with similar offences after he hurled homophobic abuse at away supporters during an October 2022 friendly between Brighton and Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest.

After his abusive comments were reported to club stewards at the Amex Stadium, the 30-year-old was arrested by on-site officials.

He later admitted in court to using offensive words likely to cause distress, which prosecutors told the court were aggravated by homophobia.

Grainger-Brown was ordered to pay a fine of £100, plus a £40 surcharge and £85 in costs, and is barred from attending UK football matches for three years.

Both offences come following the Football Association’s (FA) effort to crack down on bigoted rhetoric and chants during FA matches.

In January, Nottingham Forest fans sparked controversy for using the offensive ‘Chelsea Rent Boy’ chant towards opposition supporters during a friendly game.

Manchester United fans used the chant yet again during another January game, this time against Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.

Since then, the FA announced sanctions against any clubs whose fans use the chant during FA football matches.

Officials said they had informed clubs that the chant is now considered to be a breach of FA rules, and that the Football Association is “determined to drive it out of the game”.

“We continue to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as well as the UK Football Policing Unit, in relation to the use of this term,” the FA said in a statement.

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