An east London football fan has been banned from attending matches after admitting homophobic chanting at the end of away supporters during a Premier League match. Luke Reece, 20, of Lonsdale Avenue, Romford, was spotted by stewards at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton abusing and alerted officers to Sussex Police.
During the game between Brighton and Arsenal on October 2 last year, Reece tried to hide knowing that security had witnessed his behavior. However, during half-time he was in the hall and was escorted out of the stadium.
The Romford man has been arrested under the Public Order Act on suspicion of engaging in threatening or abusive behavior likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. He was later charged under the Football Offenses Act with indecent or racially-injured singing at a football match, aggravated by homophobia, and he received a postal requisition to appear in court.
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At Brighton Magistrates’ Court on April 5, Reece admitted the charge and was convicted. He was ordered to pay a fine of £106, court costs of £85 and a victim fine surcharge of £34. The court also imposed a football ban order which will last for three years.
The football banning order prevents him from attending football matches across the country, with additional restrictions regarding Arsenal’s home or away matches. He must also stay out of all cities where the club plays on match days for a period of four hours before kick-off and four hours after the final whistle.
Reece is also banned from being within two miles of any England men’s national football team event for four hours before and after matches. The restraining order also requires Reece to report to a designated police station before English football matches abroad.
Darren Balkham, a dedicated football officer with Sussex Police, said: “Homophobia is a recurring theme that I have encountered in my 23 years of service at football events. Unfortunately, a minority of football fans perceive this type of abuse as a mere form of ‘joking’.
“This means football fans often don’t feel empowered to report these incidents. But mentalities are starting to change and unacceptable behaviors are being challenged. Both Brighton and Hove Albion and the FA have policies in place to tackle homophobic chanting and respond to incidents.
“We are delighted that this incident has been brought to our attention. This case demonstrates that homophobic chants have no place in our stadiums or in football itself.
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