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Breaking Brighton Sussex

A football supporter has been banned from attending matches for homophobic chanting at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton

Police were alerted by the stadium’s stewards about the incident in the away section during the game between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal on October 2 last year.

The man saw that security had witnessed his behaviour and attempted to hide, but at half time he was located in the concourse area and was escorted from the stadium.

Club staff reported the incident to police, and 20-year-old Luke Reece, of Lonsdale Avenue, Romford, was arrested under the Public Order Act on suspicion of using threatening or abusive behaviour, likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress.

He was later charged under the Football Offences Act with indecent or racial chanting at a football match, aggravated by homophobia, and he was sent a postal requisition to attend court.

At Brighton Magistrates’ Court on April 5, Reece admitted the charge and was sentenced.

He was ordered to pay a £106 fine, £85 court costs and a £34 victim surcharge.

The court also imposed a Football Banning Order which will last for three years.

This bans him from attending any football matches across the country, with further restrictions surrounding Arsenal matches both at home or away.

He must remain outside of any towns or cities where the club is playing on matchdays for a period of four hours prior to kick off and for four hours after the final whistle.

Reece is also banned from being within two miles of any event played by the England national men’s football team for four hours before and after matches.

The banning order also requires Reece to report to a nominated police station before England football matches abroad.

Sussex Police’s dedicated football officer PC Darren Balkham said: “Homophobia has been a continuing theme I have encountered during my 23 years of service at football events.

“Sadly a minority of football supporters perceive this kind of abuse as simply a type of ‘banter’.

“It means that football supporters often do not feel empowered to report these incidents.

“But attitudes are starting to change and unacceptable behaviour is being challenged. Brighton and Hove Albion and the FA both have policies in place to tackle homophobic chanting and respond to incidents.

“We are pleased this incident was reported to us. This case demonstrates that homophobic chanting has no place in our stadiums or in the game of football itself.”

A Brighton and Hove Albion club spokesperson said: “We have a zero-tolerance approach on all forms of anti-social behaviour, and this includes any form of abuse.

“We worked closely with Sussex Police to identify and prosecute the individual concerned and we welcome the guilty verdict from the courts. The individual will also be subject to an indefinite ban from the Amex.”

District crown prosecutor for CPS South East and CPS football national lead Richard Dawes said: “There is no room for homophobia in society.

“The comments are unacceptable and would cause great offence regardless of the venue. Brighton is known for its inclusive culture with a large LGBTQI+ community.

“Behaviour like this will not be tolerated and we are grateful to the member of staff at Brighton and Hove Albion for their prompt response in both recognising the hateful nature of this chanting and taking immediate action to deal with the situation.”