Arrests over racist football chants

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The Independent Online

Police today arrested two of 16 suspects who allegedly shouted racist and homophobic chants at former England defender Sol Campbell.

Hampshire police have released images of the men who are believed to have shouted the abuse at Portsmouth centre-back Campbell during a game against Tottenham on Sunday, 28 September.

The photos show the suspects caught on camera by a police officer at the match at Fratton Park, Portsmouth.

A 28-year-old man from Ringwood, Hampshire, is being questioned on suspicion of indecent or racial chanting at a designated football match after attending a police station in Portsmouth.

A 36-year-old man from Wokingham is also being questioned after attending a Portsmouth police station.

Superintendent Neil Sherrington said: "As part of our investigation into indecent chanting at Fratton Park, we have identified 16 people we would like to speak to.

"Our inquiry is aimed at identifying and putting before the court those individuals who engaged in unacceptable behaviour at this public event.

"Their abuse caused distress to some supporters and was targeted at an individual.

"We want to send a clear message that abuse of this kind will not be tolerated and that we are taking robust action.

"I'd urge anyone who recognises these people to contact us as soon as possible."

The offence of indecent or racist chanting at a designated football match under the Football Offences Act 1991 can be punished by a fine of up to £1,000 and can also lead to a football banning order.

Anyone with information should contact Operation Decorum on 0845 0454545 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Portsmouth have reiterated that there is "no place" for homophobia in football and have welcomed a police investigation to help stamp it out.

Pompey's communications director, Gary Double, told PA Sport: "I think anything which can stamp out this sort of abuse in football and in society in general is a good thing.

"There is no place for it in football and that is the view of most people in the game and most fans.

"The police involvement in this matter can have a positive effect.

"Sol is co-operating with the police investigations and has given them his views on it."

It is not the first time a footballer has been suffered homophobic abuse.

Former Chelsea and Southampton defender Graeme Le Saux admitted that "the homophobic taunting and bullying left me close to walking away from football", and striker Justin Fashanu committed suicide in 1998 after eight years of abuse for revealing his homosexuality.

Peter Tatchell, the human rights activist for OutRage!, has urged the FA to bring policies for dealing with homophobia in line with those of racism.

"The abuse against Sol Campbell is totally unacceptable. Bigotry has no place in any sport," he told PA Sport.

He added: "OutRage! wants the FA to secure the agreement of all clubs to feature anti-homophobic messages in their match programmes, on tickets and inside and outside stadiums."

Piara Powar, Kick It Out's director, said: "Homophobic chanting in any football environment is wrong, regardless of how much a player may be disliked.

"We urge all authorities that have a role to play, including Hampshire Police and the FA, to take strong action.

"Kick It Out will continue to work with professional clubs, fans and gay football groups to challenge abuse of this kind wherever it occurs and to whomever it is directed."