The head of French football said Tuesday that he had told referees to no longer stop matches for homophobic abuse from fans, putting him on a collision course with the sports ministry and the football league.
Speaking to France Info, president of the French Football Federation (FFF) Noel Le Graet said that stopping matches for anti-gay chants and banners in the stands was “a mistake”, and that he “hopes” his decision will take effect from this weekend’s games.
“I would stop a match for racist chants. I would stop a match for fighting or if there were a dangerous situation in the stands,” Le Graet said.
But racism and homophobia “are not the same thing”, he insisted, adding that it should be down to the clubs to stop those responsible from getting into stadiums.
“The clubs’ security services have to check the people who go to games, there is security there to ensure that banners disappear quickly.”
Le Graet has already criticised the temporary stopping of matches in the French league due to homophobic abuse, on Friday saying that “too many matches” have been halted thanks to new rules introduced over the summer by the football League (LFP) in a bid to stop the phenomenon.
He also claimed that politicians were trying to exploit the problem in an effort to look good “in front of television cameras”.
Le Graet drew the ire of sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse and on Saturday called the FFF chief’s comments a “discredit” to football.
Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season thanks to LFP’s guidance, drawing praise from French politicians and heavy criticism from supporters.
Equalities minister Marlene Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille’s 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans.
Paris Saint-Germain’s match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts’ supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.