FARE partner, European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF), and the English FA have both received letters from UEFA explaining their tough stance against homophobia in the game. The letters have outlined the sanctions imposed on Levski Sofia and the club’s president, Todor Batkov, for the homophobic remarks he made after his side’s UEFA Cup quarter final against Schalke 04 on 30 March 2006.
Batkov was reported as saying, “This British homosexual broke the game,” referring to the English referee, Mike Riley, who halted the game after Sofia fans persistently racially abused Schalke’s Gerald Asamoah. The EGLSF and the English FA both independently raised a complaint with EUFA over Batkov’s offensive outburst.
UEFA has suspended Batkov for 2 UEFA club competitions and fined him €3,200, whereas his club receives a €35,000 fine for the misconduct of its fans.
The UEFA disciplinary body stated,
“The president of Levski Sofia obviously misjudges the meaning of this statement that was not only insulting, but also discriminatory, as it treated one person or a group worse than other without any acceptable reason and was meant to appear as negative value judgement on an individual.”
Sending out a signal
With homophobia in football still being a very taboo subject, campaigners can only hope that UEFA’s decision to confront it on this occasion will dissuade others from making such discriminatory gaffs in future.
Johan van de Ven, of FARE partner EGLSF commented,
“Refering to people as gay, whether true or not, is discriminating gays in general. UEFA is taking homophobic behaviour seriously and I am glad for that. This is definitely a good sign.”