Saturday was set up to be a great day. The rain had subsided early on, and the sun had decided to put on its hat and head out for the day. Despite a cold and strong breeze reminding us that we are still heading steadily to the mildness of October, it was still a great day to watch football. After a swift walk from the relative comfort of the pub to the hostility of the King Power Stadium (with a bacon cheeseburger en-route), I made my way to to my home for the next ninety minutes – sandwiched between two young men with less-than-welcoming personal hygiene – just in time for kick-off.
The teams emerged – Brighton and Hove Albion the visitors to Leicester for the day – to rapturous applause from both sets of fans; with the Post Horn Gallop played impeccably, as per usual. However my anticipation for the game quickly turned to disgust after just a minute-and-a-half of the game, as choruses of “You’re just a town full of faggots” rang out from behind me.
Now, before I go on further, I should tell those who don’t know much about Brighton and Hove a few pieces of information. The city, situated on the Sussex Coast, is commonly referred to as the “Gay Capital of Britain”. This is due to it having a very substantial LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. Each August, the city hosts the fantastic “Brighton Pride” event; which aims to eliminate the discrimination of the LGBT community whilst promoting equality and diversity in the community. Each year, the event is attended by over 100,000 people; some of which are neither homosexual or transgender.
Returning to the game, the visitors started off the game brightly; with their impressive support of around 2,000 warming up their voices. But it wasn’t long before their chant of “Sea-Sea-Seasiders” was transformed into a less-than-witty retort of “Shit-shit-shit stabbers” by a small section of the home crowd.
Over the course of the first half, the moronic chants continued to head in the direction of the visitors, ranging from “Does your boyfriend know you’re here?” to screaming “get up, you poof!” at a Brighton player, whilst down on the floor with an injury.
By the time that the full-time whistle was blown and I had moved to a different section of the ground, the bigoted chanting from a small minority – and I must stress that it was only a small section – had soured what was an encouraging win over the early Championship pace-setters. I should have walked from that stadium with a smile on my face, but all I could think of was the brainless lack of tolerance from some of the people who I am supposed to call my fellow supporters.
All credit to the Brighton supporters, many shrugged off the abuse and continued with the support of their team; although I fear that their ability to let such abuse over their heads means that homophobic abuse is a common occurrence when the Seagulls pull into a town. It’s also a worry that by singing such despicable chants, it is condoning such behaviour to younger fans. There were kids chanting in the crowd, who must have been no more than nine-or-ten years old; already a new generation converted to social ignorance and sexual discrimination.
I take comfort – albeit a very small amount – in the fact that many of the Foxes fans were appalled by the actions of a few. Posts on Leicester City forums ranged from “There isn’t any place for it at the King Power Stadium” to “a group of hundreds of football fans chanting ‘faggots’ is outright intimidating behaviour”. However there were still a number dismissing the chants as “just a bit of banter”.
Yet these people are also some of the same group of supporters who are outraged on the few occasions where opposition fans – Bristol City and Nottingham Forest immediately spring to mind – chant “You’re just a town full of Paki’s” (due to the cultural diversity within the city of Leicester, of which the South-Asian community have a large presence) when the Foxes play away.
Although there are high-profile campaigns – “Kick it Out” being the most well-known – which are steadily trying to eradicate racism from both the terraces, and society in general; there is almost a “sweep it under the carpet” attitude towards homophobia.
The Justin Campaign (http://www.thejustincampaign.com) does tremendous work in trying to prevent homophobia from rearing its ugly head in football; but with almost no publicity given to the organisation, it relies mostly on word-of-mouth to help publicise its objectives.
For now, without the high profile backing of players or clubs, homophobia will continue to grow in the sport. Unless action is taken to publicise such organisations, their message will unfortunately be drowned out by a chorus of bigoted chanting.