French federation head: Stop games over racist chants - but not homophobic ones

PARIS (Reuters) - French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet told a radio station that he supported referees stopping matches in the event of racist chants - but not homophobic ones, in comments that drew criticism on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - 2018 World Cup Qualifications - Europe - France vs Luxembourg - Toulouse, France - September 3, 2017 French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet before the match REUTERS/Fred Lancelot/File Photo

The FFF introduced new rules this season enabling referees to interrupt play in the event of any such incident.

“We will make sure there are no more (homophobic banners and chants). But stopping a game? - No,” Le Graet told French radio France Info. “I would not stop the games - totally against this.”

But he added that he would stop a game in the event of racist chants.

“I would stop a match if there are racist chants, that is clear,” he said.

The distinction he made drew a rebuke from sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who spoke to reporters in parliament.

“The position of Noel Le Graet, which differentiates racism and homophobia, is erroneous,” she said.

“I never said the world of football was homophobic...but we can encourage them to take their share of responsibility in the fight against discrimination in general.”

Jeremy Faledam, the president of the SOS Homophobie association, expressed a similar view.

“It’s unsettling. He makes a hierarchy between racism and homophobia, which are two types of discrimination that need to be fought just the same,” Faledam said.

Several Ligue 1 matches have been briefly interrupted by referees this season because of homophobic chants in the stands, in accordance with new rules the FFF enforced this season.

The president does not have the authority to instruct referees to go against the new rules.

The rules were publicly supported by sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who last week said she was “astonished” by previous comments from Le Graet that “too many matches” had been stopped because of incidents of homophobia.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson