Although FIFA recently emphasized a rule allowing referees’ to end soccer matches if fans utter homophobic or racist chants, French Football Federation (FFF) president Noël Le Graët is sending refs the exact opposite message: he’s discouraging them from interrupting matches over homophobic chants.
“I would not stop the games — [I am] totally against this,” Graët told the France Info radio network Tuesday. “I would stop a match if there are racist chants, that is clear. We will make sure there are no more [anti-gay banners and chants]. But stopping a game? No.”
It’s unclear if Graët explained how he’d ensure an end to anti-gay banners and chants. However, in an interview with the newspaper Ouest-France, he continued:
“I think we’re stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can’t be taken hostage by vulgarity.”
”Matches have been stopped when they shouldn’t have been. We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles, I don’t see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”
Jeremy Faledam, president of the French LGBTQ organization SOS Homophobie, called Graët’s words “unsettling,” adding, “He makes a hierarchy between racism and homophobia, which are two types of discrimination that need to be fought just the same.”
France24.com reported, “Since the start of the French football season less than a month ago on August 9, there have been at least 20 cases of fans chanting homophobic slurs or showing anti-gay banners during domestic games.”
On Aug. 28, French referees stopped a match between Nice and Marseille for 10 minutes when fans unfurled two anti-gay banners.
France’s Sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, a supporter of FIFA’s rule, also publicly challenged Graët’s stance, stating that all football stakeholders need to figure out ways to stop homophobia rather than opposing one another.