The European Court of Justice on Thursday rapped Romanian football club, Steaua Bucarest, over homophobic comments made by its patron George “Gigi” Becali, a controversial politician and millionaire businessman.
In its ruling, the court said that homophobic statements by the patron of a club “may shift the burden of proof onto the club to prove that it does not have a discriminatory recruitment policy.”
In an interview about the possible transfer of a professional footballer, Becali, who is a former member of the European Parliament, had said essentially that he would never hire a homosexual player.
“A defendant employer cannot deny the existence of facts from which it may be presumed that it has a discriminatory recruitment policy by asserting that the statements indicative of a homophobic recruitment policy come from a person who, while claiming to play an important role in the management of that employer and appearing to do so, is not legally capable of binding it in recruitment matters,” the court said.
Discrimination in employment on several grounds including sexual orientation is banned in the European Union.
The court added that “the fact that that employer might not have clearly distanced itself from those statements may be taken into account in the appraisal of its recruitment policy.”
Romanian courts will have the final say on the matter following a complaint lodged in 2010 by Accept, an NGO fighting in favour of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual rights in Romania.
Former Wales rugby union captain Gareth Thomas and Puerto Rican boxing champion Orlando Cruz have come out while still active, but nowhere is the taboo more entrenched than in football where competitors remain firmly in the closet.
Copyright AFP, 2013.