Anti-discrimination campaigners call for joint response after weekend of shame

Anti-discrimination campaigners have called for a joint response after a weekend which saw four investigations launched into homophobic or racist abuse at Premier League matches.

Brighton announced on Monday that two men had been ejected from the away section at the Amex Stadium and arrested on suspicion of using homophobic gestures during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Wolves, while Everton have launched an investigation into an allegation of homophobic chanting aimed at Chelsea fans on Saturday.

In addition, a 41-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence and later bailed pending further investigation following the derby clash between Manchester City and Manchester United.

And a 13-year-old Burnley supporter was removed from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for allegedly making a racist gesture towards Spurs striker Son Heung-min.

A spokesman for Kick It Out said: “We welcome the strong and swift responses from all the clubs affected by discrimination this weekend – and applaud those who reported abuse.

“It is disappointing abuse continues, but only further highlights the need for everyone in football to work together to combat discrimination. Those responsible should face appropriate sanctions and, where possible, education.”

Jehmeil Lemonius, Stonewall’s sport campaigns manager, said: “The homophobic chanting during this weekend’s matches are upsetting reminders that attitudes still need to change in order to make sport more inclusive.

“Our research shows the majority of the British public (65 per cent) believe it’s important anti-LGBT language is challenged at live sporting events.

“Tackling offensive cheers and behaviour is a crucial part of helping LGBT people feel welcome in sport, so it’s great that Everton and Brighton have stepped up to take action.

“The more players, fans, clubs and organisations that stand up for equality in sport, the sooner we kick discrimination out and make sport everyone’s game.’

City are working with Manchester Police after a video circulated appearing to show a home supporter aiming monkey chants at United players, while Everton are in contact with both Merseyside Police and Kick It Out over the incident at Goodison Park.

It emerged on Monday that a teenage Burnley fan had been thrown out during the Clarets’ 5-0 defeat in the capital after allegedly making a gesture towards South Korea international Son, who scored a brilliant solo goal during the game.

Son Heung-min scored a wonder-goal in Tottenham's 5-0 win over Burnley
Son Heung-min scored a wonder-goal in Tottenham’s 5-0 win over Burnley (Jonathan Brady/PA)

In a statement, the Turf Moor club reiterated its zero tolerance policy on discrimination and added: “During the Premier League game, a 13-year-old Burnley supporter was ejected from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium following an alleged racist gesture towards Spurs player Son Heung-min.

“The minor, who was accompanied by a guardian, is now under investigation by the Metropolitan Police, with help from Lancashire Police and the two clubs.

“In the meantime, Burnley Football Club will be contacting the teenager and his family, with a view to an enforced educational programme, run in conjunction with Kick It Out and Burnley FC in the Community.”

Sunday brought a further incident with Brighton and Wolves both issuing strong statements after two men aged 46 and 48 and both from Bridgnorth in Shropshire were arrested and later released under investigation pending further enquiries following reports of homophobic gestures.

Brighton’s chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber said: “It’s both sad and depressing that once again we find ourselves having to address another situation of discriminatory abuse.

“Prior to kick-off, we had a huge show of support for the Rainbow Laces campaign brilliantly backed by the vast majority of people inside the stadium, and yet before the game is over, we are forced to deal with these two individuals, who think it’s okay to behave in this way.

“Working with Sussex Police, I’m pleased to report that once again our staff were able to take swift action, which hopefully will increase the chances of a conviction. We simply won’t stand for it at the Amex.”

Wolves too have confirmed they are working with police in connection with the incident.

A club statement said: “There is no room in football or society for discrimination of any kind, and the club strongly condemns such behaviour.

“Our ethos at Wolves is about being ‘One Pack’ – an attitude our supporters are very passionate about and that extends to our relationships across the football community, regardless of rivalries on the pitch.

“The club is now offering its support to Sussex Police in what is a criminal investigation.”

Sussex Police confirmed the arrest and subsequent release of the pair.

A statement said: “Two football fans were arrested following reports of homophobic gestures made at the Amex Stadium on Sunday 8 December.

“The suspects – both away fans during Brighton and Hove Albion’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers – were identified by club stewards and arrested on suspicion of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

“The two men – aged 46 and 48, and both from Bridgnorth in Shropshire – have been released under investigation pending further enquiries.”

In the Sky Bet Championship, Charlton striker Lyle Taylor reported an individual to Instagram after receiving racist abuse, but the social networking service suggested the content of the messages did not go against its Community Guidelines.

Instagram was contacted by PA news agency but has yet to respond.

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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