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Wednesday 22nd
posted by Morning Star in Sport

BRITISH football must start tackling homophobia with the same gusto it’s tackling racism, Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said yesterday.

Seagulls supporters are often subjected to homophobic chants from opposing fans because of the city’s large LGBT population.

And while Barber — a former director at the Football Association, Tottenham and the Vancouver Whitecaps who has been at Brighton for five years — says things have improved, he also thinks more can be done.

Speaking to reporters at a Sport Industry event in London, Barber said: “I see [homophobia] as a social problem and we haven’t solved that yet.

“These things often get laid at football’s door because of its profile and contained audience, but it’s a wider problem.

“That said, I think football could use its power in a similar way to the Kick it Out [antiracism] campaign. By focusing on that issue, the game has made a huge impact.

“We have only had a couple of incidents this season with visiting fans at the Amex, and we have been able to identify them and eject them. But it’s harder when it’s 1,000 or 1,500 fans chanting something — you can’t eject them all.

“But we’ve always had great co-operation from other EFL clubs when there have been problems and our fans are great at dealing with it, too. When they hear chants of ‘Does your boyfriend know you’re here?’, they come back with ‘You’re too ugly to be gay’ and it usually stops it at source.”

MPs also criticised sluggish action on homophobic abuse earlier this month.

A culture, media and sport select committee report said attitudes in sport were “out of step with wider society” and bemoaned the lack of openly gay footballers.

But Barber disagreed that a wave of players coming out is the answer. “I don’t put much store in this idea that we need to players to come out — we don’t expect it of politicians or businessmen and we don’t ask straight players to declare their sexuality,” said Barber.

“They will come out when they’re ready, and if they want to — it’s their business, really.”