Gareth Thomas to join MPs calling for law change on homophobic football chanting

A draft bill to amend the Football Offences Act (1991) and make indecent and homophobic chanting illegal will be launched on Monday.

Former Wales rugby union captain Gareth Thomas will join Damian Collins MP at the launch event, which will take place at the Houses of Parliament.

Collins, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, will then table the bill.

The proposed amendment to the act seeks to “make chanting or gesturing of an indecent nature with reference to sexual orientation or gender identity against the law”, a DCMS committee note announcing the launch stated.

Section three of the existing act states that “it is an offence to engage or take part in chanting of an indecent or racialist nature at a designated football match”.

There is a definition of “of a racialist nature”, which is described as “threatening, abusive or insulting to a person by reason of his colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins”.

But there is no definition of what is “indecent”, so determining whether something is indecent is on an individual basis.

The FA premiered a fan-produced cartoon ahead of England’s match with Italy in March that aimed to help supporters challenge homophobic abuse.

2:04 An England LGBT supporter, Di Cunningham, told Sky Sports News she was hesitant to display her Three Lions pride rainbow banner in Russia, in case she attracts the attention of police

Pride in Football, the alliance group of LGBT+ fan groups which produced the cartoon, told Sky Sports News that football fans are more confident of reporting abuse as a result of increased visibility of the LGBT+ community.

It came after Kick it Out, sport’s equality and inclusion organisation, revealed there has been a “significant” rise in the number of reported incidents of discrimination within football.

The organisation said that racist behaviour (54 per cent) was once again the highest reported form of discrimination.

Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia (HBT) made up 22 per cent of incidents, while antisemitism (nine per cent) was another major category of discriminatory abuse.

Thomas, who made 100 appearances for Wales, scoring 41 tries, and three Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions, came out as gay in December 2009, shortly after divorcing his wife.

In 2017, the 43-year-old presented a BBC documentary titled ‘Gareth Thomas v Homophobia: Hate in the Beautiful Game’, witnessing institutionalised homophobia in football.

The DCMS committee in the same year published its report into tackling homophobia in sport and now both parties are turning acknowledgement into action with the amendment.