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Albion fans slam Dispatches show about homophobic football abuse as misleading
The Albion supporters’ club has branded a TV documentary which showed homophobic abuse at games as “misleading”, adding that behaviour inside grounds is “better than ever”.
Liz Costa, the vice-chairwoman, was speaking following Monday night’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme which looked at homophobic and racist abuse at English football grounds.
The first section of the programme focused on abuse directed towards Albion fans, both home and away.
Ms Costa said: “We will never stamp it out completely but it’s a hell of a lot better this year than last – and it will be even better still in 12 months.
“A couple of years ago it would be whole sections of the away end directing homophobic abuse at us.
“Now – as you can see from the documentary – it is just very small numbers.
“The world is full of bigots so we will always get this kind of abuse, but it has improved no end.
“We used to get it every single game. This season I can probably count the incidents on one hand.”
The supporters’ club published a report last April citing all incidents of homophobic abuse across a season in a bid to stamp it out.
The report hit national newspapers and the Football Association took steps to improve their approach.
Ms Costa described its impact as “incredible”. She said: “It took us 20 years to put something of a lid on racist abuse in grounds.
"In the 11 months since the report was released, I would say we have made five years' of equivalent progress in the fight against homophobia.”
She explained not only had the report helped remove the subject’s taboo status but also led to improvements and better links between the police, ground staff, supporters and rival clubs.
She added: “People used to say ‘Oh, it’s just banter’, but I think the report changed that. Attitudes are changing and supporters – home and away – are self-policing.
"When we played Birmingham earlier this season, one of their own supporters notified our stewards about homophobic abuse from fellow fans and that’s great to see.”
Responding to the documentary, Sussex Police said they were “proud” of their reputation but admitted more had to be done.
Chief Inspector Katy Woolford said: “This is not solely a policing issue. We work closely with partners and support stewards when complaints have been made.
“When officers become aware that homophobic or racist abuse is taking place, there is an expectation that they will take action, using their professional judgement as to what the appropriate course of action should be.”
The documentary features secret footage from a number of Albion games in which homophobic abuse can be heard.
During a home game against Burnley in August last year a group of supporters were recorded chanting “You’re just a town full of benders” just metres from a police officer.
A police spokesman said they would “consider” the footage.
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