France’s Le Graët under fire after saying matches won’t be stopped for homophobic chants

Noël Le Graët

September 11 – The president of the French Football Federation Noël Le Graët has instructed referees that they should no longer stop matches over homophobic chants. The directive has prompted anti-discrimination groups to demand that Le Graët resigns. 

In an interview with France Info, Le Graët distinguished between racism, fighting and homophobia. “I would stop a match for racist chants,” said the FFF president. “I would stop a match for fighting or if there were a dangerous situation in the stands.”

But he insisted that homophobia was a different matter.  “Stopping matches [for homophobic chanting] doesn’t interest me,” said Le Graët. “It is an error. To say that football is homophobic, and could be the only symbol of homophobia in France, that’s a bit strong. I don’t accept it. We’ll make sure there are no more banners [in stadiums]; that’s different. But stopping games, no.”

This season several high-profile Ligue 1 and 2 matches, including Nice – Marseille, have already been halted by referees for homophobic chanting after the Professional Football League (LFP) introduced new rules to combat the problem.

Le Graët’s words have left him on collision course with France’s sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the initiative to stop matches over homophobic chanting, and various anti-discrimination groups.  The Rouge Direct group and SOS Racisme hit out at Le Graët demanding he step down from his role.  “He must leave,” said Rouge Direct group Julien Pontes. “At a minimum, he must withdraw what he said.”

Pontes said that the group would go to court if he Le Graet doesn’t resign, arguing that that the FFF boss was discriminating between different forms of discrimination and making homophobia appear less of an issue than racism.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1600985147labto1600985147ofdlr1600985147owedi1600985147sni@o1600985147fni1600985147