France’s top soccer league, Ligue de Football Professionnel, is the latest group attempting to combat the global problem of rampant homophobia among fans during matches.
In a plan announced Monday by league president Nathalie Boy de la Tour, the French soccer league will institute a multi-point plan to retaliate against fans found making anti-gay comments or participating in homophobic chants.
Beginning next season, the league will distribute forms that provide match attendees an easier method to report discriminatory offenses. According to Boy de la Tour, the new practice will be conducted in partnership with the International League against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA) and another LGBTQ anti-discrimination organization.
“The LICRA will be able to start the appropriate judicial procedures… and it will also give a basis to work with to our disciplinary commission.” Boy de la Tour told The Associated Press.
The campaign will launch in conjunction with the International Day against Homophobia on May 17. Ligue 2 captains, coaches and officials will wear a rainbow armband during that day’s matches, and their Ligue 1 counterparts will do the same on May 18.
A short film will be shown in all stadiums prior to matches and across social media under the slogan “Homo or Hetero, we all share the same shirt.”
️ La J37 de @Ligue1Conforama et la J38 de @DominosLigue2 seront dédiées à la lutte contre l’homophobie. Capitaines, coachs, délégués de matchs et arbitres seront invités à porter un brassard aux couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel
— Ligue de Football Professionnel (@LFPfr) May 13, 2019
The new reporting process brings the LFP’s reporting process closer in line with other initiatives, such as the UK’s Kick It Out campaign, that made it easier to report incidents of racial discrimination.
The initiative isn’t exclusive to the stands, though. Boy de la Tour also laid out plans to increase social consciousness of homophobic practices among players, coaches and club supporters. Citing that players and supporters might be ignorant as to the meaning of certain offensive terms and chants heard or used, the league plans to distribute informative leaflets and information packets to academies and club organizers.
Boy de la Tour also reiterated that LFP referees are empowered to stop games if players are targeted with anti-gay slurs. The same practice has mostly been used in response to racist or xenophobic language in the past. In addition, the league’s disciplinary council has the power to issue point deductions to clubs in response to incidents of LGBTQ discrimination.
LFP’s new policy comes after years of struggling to effectively identify and punish offenders. A recent match between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille brought the issue back into the spotlight. The match was so inundated with homophobic chants from PSG fans that French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu stated she wouldn’t be comfortable taking her children to the match.
Roxana MaracineanuPhoto by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Another incident earlier this month showcased just how far the LFP is willing to go to preserve civility within its stadiums. Ligue 2 club Lens incurred a 50,000 euro ($56,000) fine after fans showered club rival Valenciennes with offensive chants during a match. In addition, a section of the club’s stadium was shut down for one match by the LFP’s disciplinary commission.
It will now be easier to hold fans accountable for their prejudice and subject them to France’s hefty punishments for hurling discriminatory insults in public. “If qualified as homophobic, they can be punished with a 22,500 euro ($25,000) fine and six months in prison,” said Frederic Potier, the French government’s special representative on racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination.