The morning after Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 win over rivals Marseille in the top-flight of French soccer, politician Olivier Klein posted a video to social media showing the “unbearable homophobic chants” sung by the home fans.
Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Klein — recently appointed to head up anti-discrimination body Dilcrah — said he would be taking up the matter with PSG and the French league organizers, LFP, to explore possible sanctions and the possibility of legal action.
Très choqué par les insupportables chants homophobes entendus au Parc des Princes lors du #PSGOM— Olivier Klein (@OlivierKlein93) September 25, 2023
Avec la #DILCRAH, je vais saisir le club @PSG_inside et la ligue @LFPfr afin que des sanctions soient prises.
Nous étudierons aussi les possibilités de saisir la justice ! pic.twitter.com/fHoejuMLW1
The video footage and Klein’s intervention have reignited conversations about the prevalence of homophobia in French football and how to best tackle the problem.
Reporters at the Parc des Princes Sunday night said the anti-gay chanting lasted for around 15 minutes. Among the lines shouted were “Marseille are faggots” and “we will hang them by the balls, but sadly they don’t have any.”
The French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the incidents would be thoroughly investigated and promised a “firm response”, urging PSG to bring legal action themselves against the fans responsible.
However, for Olivier Rouyer — the only man to have played international football for France and come out publicly as gay — the situation warrants a level of punishment that will severely impact the clubs themselves.
Rouyer won 17 caps for France in the 1970s and early 80s and played alongside the great Michel Platini. He was 52 and a respected pundit when he first spoke about being gay in the pages of sports daily L’Equipe in 2008.
On Tuesday, he was asked by broadcaster BFM TV to give his views on the chanting and what steps should be taken.
“I don’t see it in rugby, where at the moment there’s an extraordinary atmosphere at the World Cup,” said Rouyer.
“I don’t see it in handball, volleyball, basketball — I only see it in football. It drives me crazy because it’s a sport that I love. When I hear that, I go crazy.
“There’s no point in looking for anything other than the deduction of points or the abandonment of a match.
“You won’t stop certain fanatics from singing, from saying things.
“I’m disgusted because I don’t understand what’s happening. It’s time for the Government to react because we have to take charge of this. We have to stop it, it’s unbearable.”
Olivier Rouyer, ancien footballeur, propose "la suppression des points voire le match perdu" en cas de chants homophobes de la part de supporters d'un club de football pic.twitter.com/95MuEeWutu— BFMTV (@BFMTV) September 26, 2023
Four years ago, measures were introduced by the French Football Federation that allowed referees to suspend matches for homophobic chanting, which had long gone unchecked in the domestic game.
It was the same PSG-Marseille fixture — known as ‘Le Classique’ — that had triggered the change in approach. The FFF was prompted to act following comments made by Oudea-Castera’s predecessor as sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, who was appalled by what she heard from the Parc des Princes stands in March 2019 and questioned whether the environment was safe for children.
But after several games were halted for homophobic chanting in Ligues 1 and 2, the top-two divisions, at the start of the 2019/20 campaign, then FFF president Noël Le Graët told officials not to do so again unless “there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground”.
As well as the chanting, some fans in stadiums unfurled banners displaying anti-gay slogans. Previously, French disciplinary chiefs have imposed temporary closures of individual stands for such offenses.
In June 2023, the results of a poll conducted by IPSOS on behalf of the Federation Sportive LGBT+, which represents more than 50 LGBTQ-inclusive sports clubs in France, were released. 40% of all respondents said they had witnessed or been targeted by homophobic slurs in a sports environment, while for LGBTQ people taking the survey, that figure rose to 67%.
Regarding the chants heard Sunday, PSG told AFP that the club “condemns all forms of discrimination, notably homophobia, and reiterates that they have no place in stadiums or anywhere in society”.
Reports suggested PSG officials were speaking with fan group leaders at a hastily convened summit on Tuesday evening.
Then on Wednesday afternoon, the LFP disciplinary committee issued a press release, summoning four PSG players — Ousmane Dembélé, Randal Kolo Muani, Layvin Kurzawa and Achraf Hakimi — who had allegedly shouted homophobic slurs in the post-match celebrations. That hearing will take place next Thursday.
In his interview with BFM, Rouyer had mentioned how he would like to see more players speaking up to help in the fight against homophobia.
The need to be more proactive at all levels of the game in France was also raised in a statement issued by campaign group SOS Homophobie.
“Awareness-raising actions must be multiplied, amplified, intensified, among football players and supporter groups,” the statement read. “We call on authorities and organizations to make the amplification of actions to prevent LGBTIphobia possible and effective as quickly as possible for all professional football clubs and fan groups concerned.”
An initiative put in place by the LFP for the shirt numbers on players’ jerseys to be in rainbow colors for a match round has hit snags in recent seasons.
Former PSG player Idrissa Gueye skipped the matches in question in May 2021 and May 2022, while Toulouse left out five players from their squad for the relevant fixture this year, played two days before the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
There were further reports of homophobic chanting at Tuesday’s Ligue 1 match between Lille and Reims. The response of the authorities to these latest incidents is being scrutinized closely in France, but anti-discrimination chief Klein is not giving up hope.
“I think that there is still time for justice to be seized and for it to do its job as much as possible,” he told Le Parisien. “We must stop and say that this is no longer possible.”