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Brighton and Hove Albion welcome tough stance on homophobic chanting
Brighton and Hove Albion have welcomed new guidelines to tackle homophobic chanting for the first time.
Police have said troublemakers given banning orders will find they are unable to attend the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
The orders prevent supporters from travelling to matches for a minimum of three years. Any imposed this season would also affect supporters hoping to attend Euro 2016 in France, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Association of Chief Police Officers said in a statement setting out the policy guidance.
PC Darren Balkham, Sussex Police's football liaison officer for Brighton and Hove Albion, said: “We welcome the new guidelines brought forward by the CPS but it doesn't change the way we operate here at The Amex or how we work with the Albion fans.
“What it does do is empower us to deliver evidence to the CPS and for them to consider banning orders for hate crime or any other matter.
“It's really a change for the better for the prosecution, we will still put evidence forward as we have done with the Derby County fans recently.
“It's a definite positive in that it brings the element of society into football - racial abuse or homophobic abuse is not tolerated on West Street in Brighton, so why should it be tolerated at a football match?
“Hopefully these banning orders meaning fans could potentially miss out on World Cup tickets will work.
“I still feel the banter in football is precious, you get some of the best comedians in the country making up chants from the terraces, but you've got to distinguish what is deemed offensive and what is deemed as not offensive - and homophobic chanting is definitely offensive.
"Where the chanting is carried out by a large group of supporters, it is obviously impossible to deal with many people at the time. However, we can look at video afterwards that will help us to identify ringleaders and we will put them in front of the courts. I am also heartened by the support of the FA and the PFA and hope that they will join us by taking action against the clubs who allow this to happen."
Nick Hawkins, lead sports prosecutor at the CPS, said most football fans were well behaved and there had been a rise in the numbers of families at matches because of "friendlier atmospheres".
He said: “Decent, law-abiding football fans deserve to be reassured that the criminal justice system is better equipped than ever before to protect their right to follow their teams in safety, while players, referees and supporters should know that harassment and abuse against them will not be tolerated.
"In years gone by, racist and homophobic chanting in the stands was an ugly feature of football matches across the country, but I believe we are beginning to see a shift in culture, but hate crime legislation has a large part to play in this ongoing culture change."
Mr Hawkins said research showed Brighton and Hove Albion fans were subjected to homophobic abuse at more than 70% of away games last season, showing such incidents were still happening "frighteningly" often.
Liz Costa, vice-chairwoman of Brighton and Hove Albion Supporters' Club, said she was "thrilled to bits" that homophobic abuse aimed at Brighton fans was "at last" being treated with the same seriousness as racism.
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