Four men have been convicted for homophobic behaviour at a West Ham United match, but escaped the lifetime bans threatened by the club in February.
The Metropolitan Police investigated reports of several West Ham fans making vile homophobic gestures and comments towards visiting supporters during the game against Brighton & Hove Albion on February 1.
Two men, Thomas Hill, 25 and Samuel Marshall, 21, were arrested during the fixture. They pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act and were each fined £200 plus costs.
The investigation continued and two other men, Damian Critten, 24, and Jack Wood, 25, were summonsed to court. They pleaded guilty to the same offence and were each fined £120 and given three-year football banning orders.
Chief inspector Chris Green of Met Operations said: “This investigation and these convictions show that we will not tolerate homophobic behaviour or hate crime at football matches and more broadly in our city.
“If you have information about people committing these type of despicable offences, please share that information with police. These offenders may happen to support the same football team as you, but they do not deserve your support.”
West Ham appears to have reneged on commitment to lifetime bans for homophobia
All four men walked away from court without the lifetime bans promised by West Ham United after the disgusting scenes at the match.
Earlier this year the club became the first in the UK to declare that anyone found guilty of discriminatory behaviour would be banned for life from London Stadium, as well as all of West Ham’s away matches.
In a statement to Standard Sport in February, a West Ham spokesperson said: “West Ham United is disgusted to hear of alleged homophobic incidents at the game against Brighton & Hove Albion.
“The matter is now with the police but anyone found guilty of acting in a discriminatory manner will be banned for life from London Stadium and from travelling with the club.
“The club is unequivocal in its stance – we have a zero-tolerance approach to any form of discrimination.”
However, the club now appears to have reneged on its “unequivocal” commitment. This insincerity when it comes to disciplinary action was previously highlighted by the former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas.
Speaking on the BBC’s ‘Don’t Tell Me the Score’ podcast, he said: “What happens in sport, I believe, in football definitely, is everyone in football is very good at reacting to situations. So we will have an act of racism, it hits the headlines, everyone comes out reacting in the right way.
“Another two or three months later another racist act or homophobic act or transphobic act will occur and everyone will react in the right way – but when you look at it seven months down the line, nothing has happened because everyone has reacted enough.”
Thomas, who is gay, is lobbying to have the Football Offences Act 1991 updated to include homophobic abuse. The sportsman urged Boris Johnson to tackle the “blatantly obvious black hole in the law” once and for all.
PinkNews has contacted West Ham United for comment, but had received no response at the time of publication.