However, supporters aren’t giving up, but are insisting that these terms have become part of the fan culture and that their use in chants doesn’t refer to LGBT people at all. Sputnik has spoken to both sides of the dispute.
A referee stopped one of the first matches of the season of French League 1 when fans started singing allegedly homophobic songs and unfurled banners of the same nature.
Back in 2008, in accordance with a UEFA resolution, the Professional Football League (PFL) drafted a charter against homophobia, which was, however, signed by only 10 clubs and didn’t provide for any sanctions. Today, the PFL is quite determined – referees now have the right to stop and cancel matches due to clear manifestations of homophobia.
According to Julien Pontes, president of Rouge Direct, an association against homophobia in football, these measures are not enough. He believes that the league has done too little and too late to resolve the issue:
“If the PFL had been concerned about the problem 10-20 years ago, we wouldn’t be here today. If no-one has told a poor supporter who sings a horrific homophobic song that this is terrible, it is the responsibility of the League. […] Homophobic insults kill homosexuals every year by pushing them to suicide. These insults are so entrenched in the fans’ vocabulary that they don’t even realise it. […] Homophobia is punishable by law and this law should apply to football stadiums”.
Active fans, or “ultras”, have a different opinion about homophobia in the stands. One of them told Sputnik that for fans, the issue of homophobia simply doesn’t exist.
“The Minister of Sports ‘mentions homophobic songs and such words as [homosexual] or [sexually abused in an unconventional manner], but these songs have no homophobic subtext. It is folklore; these are songs for creating a certain atmosphere. These terms are used daily; you can hear them everywhere”.
“It is not the League that wants to silence us, but the authorities on which it depends, including the Ministries of Sports and the Interior”.
“The authorities pressure us to sanitise the stadiums and make the world of the ‘ultras’ disappear. They want French stadiums to look like the American ones, the NBA or NFL, where there are no guest fans. Yet what they don’t understand is that a large part of the ‘ordinary fans’ come to the stadium to embrace the atmosphere created by the ‘ultras’. The prefects and the decrees show that the ministry doesn’t consider us as full French citizens. Unlike the rest of the population, we don’t have the fundamental right to move freely around the country, sometimes for no coherent reason”.