These are dark days for football. Take away the glitz and glamour of the over-hyped Premier League with its plethora of multimillionaires and things are quite grubby underneath. We hear that the Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma was subject to vile racist abuse after his own goal at the weekend. Just last week, Paul Pogba, too, had to ensure filthy abuse. Then there’s the collapse of Bury and the near collapse of Bolton and it’s clear that not all is well in out national game.
My old club Bristol Rovers is not immune to having idiots among its support base. I can’t comment on what was chanted and sung at two recent home games and I don’t know the numbers involved because I wasn’t there, but I know Brighton supporters had to endure homophobic abuse from some home fans during last week’s League Cup game. I’d have probably walked out of the ground if I’d been there because all the hate in this world has dragged me down. And then Bristol Rovers did something quite wonderful. They issued an unequivocal message for the offending supporters. Stop the chants or we’ll chuck you out and we’ll ban you. For the record, here is the BRFC statement in full:
The Club would like to state its strong disapproval of some of the chants used by supporters on both Saturday 24th and Tuesday 27th August.
Since the conclusion of our Carabao Cup fixture against Brighton, Bristol Rovers have become aware of homophobic chanting targeted at the away end. This is in addition to the unsavoury chanting about the former player, Matty Taylor.
As a club, we are strongly against these actions and are taking appropriate steps to tackle this issue so it does not happen again.
Homophobic chants are an offence, and incidents like these will be treated as such by the Club. Security Staff and Stewards will look to identify supporters or groups of supporters acting inappropriately whilst within the stadium and once identified will be ejected and appropriate details will be obtained with the help of the Police and appropriate bans will be imposed instantly.
Bristol Rovers is a family club, we take pride in our community and ability to offer a space where everyone, from every walk of life, can feel accepted.
We’d like to thank the vast majority of supporters who have, and continue to, represent the club in the manner we’d all expect.
It is important to add that however many people joined in homophobic chanting, they represent a minority among BRFC’s supporters. It’s the usual suspects who like to pick out and then abuse. Women, anyone of colour, someone who comes from a town where there are a lot of gay people. Sheer, wanton ignorance, all from within the safety of the herd. Pathetic people who, I often wonder, may have insecurities about their own sexuality. Rather than pretending nothing happened, hoping it all goes away, BRFC faced the issue head-on.
Doubtless, one or two meatheads will be appalled at their football club standing up to bigotry, but that’s just too bad.
One day, the Neanderthals will finally fade away into murky history and future generations will look back with wonder at how we tolerated bigotry for so long. One day no one will give a toss about a player’s colour, religion or sexuality and Bristol Rovers Football Club, with their fine statement, have brought forward the day of enlightenment by a long way.