A Nottingham Forest season ticket holder who attended Saturday’s Premier League game against Brighton says the extent of homophobic abuse from fans resulted in “the worst situation I’ve had at a football match”.
Sussex Police have confirmed to Sky Sports that they are working with their Nottinghamshire counterparts and Forest to “identify and take appropriate action” after two allegations of homophobic abuse were made relating to the fixture.
Ten-player Brighton’s controversial 3-2 win sparked wild celebrations for the visitors, and also unsavoury scenes in the Upper Bridgford Stand from where a number of home fans directed gestures and insults towards the away end below.
Forest supporter Peter Davey, attending the game with a friend, later posted to X – formerly known as Twitter – about his matchday experience, referencing the alleged homophobic slurs and also claiming that a threat was made towards him by another fan.
He has since spoken to Sky Sports to provide more detail on what happened and the damaging impact of the abuse, which occurred on the first day of the annual activation of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
Davey’s tweet prompted Forest’s LGBTQ+ and allies supporters group, Proud Forest, to issue a statement. The group said Saturday’s incident was “hugely disappointing” and that they would be submitting video footage “through the right channels”.
On Monday evening, having been informed of Davey’s account, Forest also released a statement insisting the individuals responsible for the abuse “will be dealt with appropriately”.
It was during the second half when Brighton extended their lead from the penalty spot in the 58th minute that the homophobic abuse began in earnest, said Davey.
“It was fairly obvious that homophobic gestures were being made, from one person in front of us in particular,” he said.
“He was doing it for the majority of the second half but he wasn’t the only one.
“At full-time, the celebrations from the Brighton players were pretty exuberant and that riled the Forest fans up. However, the language that they chose to use in retaliation to the Brighton players and fans was homophobic.”
Davey said that as he and his friend walked down the stand towards the exit, a group of Forest fans directed “a large number of slurs” at the away end.
“When my friend asked them to stop, they didn’t – they started insulting him.”
A request for assistance from a steward was unsuccessful, added Davey.
“One of the people who had been chanting and making insults with his mates then turned to me and called me a ‘f***ing gay p***k’ and said why don’t you try and do something about it – a threat to continue it outside.”
Davey and his friend both play for an inclusive football club and have been attending Forest games for several years.
When asked to assess Saturday’s incident, he said: “That is easily the worst situation I’ve had at a football match.
“It’s the first time I’ve felt personally unsafe like that. It isn’t that unusual to hear homophobic or transphobic insults shouted at matches as one-off incidents, but for that to be sustained and then for that to be directed at us at the final whistle was genuinely scary.”
Fans group Proud Forest, which started up in August and is being backed by the club, is due to be officially launched at the designated Rainbow Laces campaign fixture on Saturday night against Everton, live on Sky Sports.
In its statement, the group said: “We are shocked and saddened by the homophobic incidents that occurred at the match today. From witness accounts and video footage that has been shared on social media, the actions of a small minority of our fans is hugely disappointing.
“Whilst we agree that the celebrations of the visiting team were over exuberant, this does not warrant homophobic abuse or mockery as shown in the footage. The individuals in the footage by no means represent the entire Forest family. We’re truly sorry that visitors to the World Famous City Ground have had to suffer and witness this abuse, particularly today – the first day of this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
“We have the footage and will make sure this is passed on through the right channels in the hope that the individuals can be identified and dealt with accordingly. This behaviour is not welcome at the WFCG and we will continue to fight to ensure that incidents like this are eradicated from football.”
Davey described the Proud Forest statement as “encouraging” but said that it was not the first time he had witnessed homophobia at Forest matches.
“It was much worse in this game,” he said, “but on two other occasions, I’ve heard the ‘f****t’ word used to describe fans of opposing teams and that’s just from people around me at the game.”
The Rainbow Laces campaign, now in its 10th year, is supported by the Premier League and its clubs.
New data released by the charity Stonewall, which runs the initiative, shows that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of those responding to a Walnut ICM survey said they would not confront someone making homophobic comments at a sports event.
Davey believes it is “concerning” that he saw no other fans near him who were also prepared to challenge the anti-LGBTQ+ abuse.
“I don’t think there is a culture yet whereby people are shocked and are not prepared to stand for that kind of language,” he said.
“I think there is language that could be used at football games that people would be shocked by – but I don’t think that is the case with homophobic and transphobic language.
“The latter obviously wasn’t relevant in this case on Saturday but I have heard transphobic comments at football games all over the country and nobody bats an eyelid.”
He highlighted the damaging impact that hearing this abuse in stadiums can have on LGBTQ+ people, particularly younger fans.
“It’s desperately sad to think of that. There are kids all around in that sort of environment, people of all different ages and backgrounds.
“Some people don’t have support groups. They don’t necessarily have people to talk to about what they’ve seen.
“I feel less good about myself as a result of what happened on Saturday. I feel less confident about being gay. I feel ashamed of it, being the target of that language. But I have people who will help me and support me in that – not everybody does.”
After being contacted by Sky Sports for comment, Forest released the following statement via the club’s social media accounts.
“Following Saturday’s Premier League fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion, we have been made aware of some homophobic language aimed towards Brighton players and supporters from a minority of our fans.
“Homophobia, like all other forms of discrimination, has no place in football or society, and anyone engaging in discriminatory behaviour is committing a criminal offence. We are actively working with Nottinghamshire Police to identify the individuals involved, and they will be dealt with appropriately.
“We would like to thank all our supporters who reported incidents. Nottingham Forest is committed to creating an inclusive environment which embraces and celebrates our differences. We want everyone who attends our stadium to have a positive experience.”
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, currently receiving its annual activation from November 25 to December 10.
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