Change the law to stop homophobia, urge FA

 

The Football Association wants homophobic chanting outlawed under the same legislation currently used to stop racist abuse.

The governing body is also calling on the Government to ensure that technology providers are made aware of their responsibility in "managing abusive behaviour via their platforms".

The measures indicate a belief within the game's governing body that more must be done to curb all forms of abuse.

The FA wants to tackle homophobia inside grounds by a review of the 1991 Football Offences Act, which forbids indecent or racist chanting at designated football matches.

It wants "greater consistency across the country in the work of the Crown Prosecution Service so that thresholds for football banning orders and public order offences are more consistently applied".

These action points were made in a letter written on 14 May by David Bernstein to Jeremy Hunt, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The letter came three months after the Prime Minister held a Downing Street summit on racism in the game following the incidents involving Luis Suarez and John Terry.

In the letter, Bernstein states that the FA "has a record to be proud of in kicking discrimination out of English football and promoting equality". However, he says that further measures to tackle discrimination will require government help.

The letter's contents are in stark contrast to the conclusions of a Culture, Media and Sport select committee report on racism in football released last week.

This put the ball firmly in the FA's court. While the MPs acknowledged progress had been made, they concluded more needed to be done to combat discrimination.

"We believe," said chairman John Whittingdale, "it is for the FA to take the lead and set the example for everyone, from football authorities at all levels to the grassroots groups, to follow."

Bernstein's argument is that the FA has taken the lead, and he talks with some pride of the steps the FA has taken to reach out to both the Asian community and Muslim women.

However, he accepts that there is "an apparent under-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic referees in grassroots football".

Bernstein also assured Hunt that the FA will remind referees that they need to recognise and deal with incidents of "discriminatory abuse on the field of play".

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