Three fans were ejected from the Amex Stadium for “unacceptable abuse” during Brighton’s home draw against Chelsea on New Year’s Day, the south-coast club have announced.
Brighton have confirmed two home fans and a Chelsea supporter were removed from the stadium and later arrested following three unrelated incidents.
“Two home supporters and one visiting supporter were ejected from the Amex and subsequently arrested, for three separate incidents of unacceptable abuse during yesterday’s match against Chelsea,” Brighton said in a statement.
“Yet again it is with regret that we report the ejection of two home supporters – one for racist abuse of Chelsea players and one for homophobic abuse aimed at Chelsea supporters.”
Brighton said one Chelsea fan was also removed by stewards for homophobic abuse aimed at home supporters.
“All three were arrested by Sussex Police outside the stadium and now face prosecution,” Brighton said.
On the same day, Huddersfield’s home Sky Bet Championship defeat to Stoke was interrupted by a tannoy announcement after visiting midfielder James McClean was allegedly targeted by sectarian abuse.
The Professional Footballers’ Association called for action to curb the “vile abuse” it said McClean is subjected to on a regular basis.
Brighton chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber suggested it was now time for tougher sentences to be handed out by the courts for such offences.
Barber said: “Yet again our safety and stewarding team, along with Sussex Police, have had to deal with three separate and unwanted instances of disgusting racist and homophobic abuse.
“If the prospect of a life ban from watching their clubs play football isn’t a strong enough deterrent, we have to ask the question as to whether the courts should be given the power to hand out more severe punishments. Football can only do so much, and we are sick and tired of the game’s reputation being tarnished by these people.”
He added: “I find it impossible to comprehend how and why some individuals think it’s acceptable to behave in this way, and yet again I will make it very clear that neither Brighton & Hove Albion nor the wider football community will tolerate racism, homophobia, or any other form of discrimination at any time.
“We would urge any fans confronted with similar discriminatory behaviour at our stadium to report it immediately, either directly to a steward or via our anonymous hotline, and we will continue to take the strongest possible action against such bigoted individuals. These people are not welcome at the Amex or at any football matches.”
The PFA said it would be talking to referees’ body Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) and the EFL in a bid to ensure McClean gets protection.
The organisation said in a statement on Twitter: “James has been subjected to this type of vile abuse throughout his career, and he will be fully supported in the same way as any other individual who receives abuse based on their race, religion or nationality.
“The PFA have previously advised James to report sectarian chanting to match officials and we are satisfied that in this instance (against Huddersfield) the protocol was enacted. However, this action in isolation is not sufficient.
“In addition, as with other forms of discrimination, it has become clear that this type of abuse is on the rise and is becoming a weekly occurrence for James.
“We will be talking with PGMO and the EFL to ensure that match officials are vigilant to this type of chanting and hope to see future action taken proactively on James’ behalf.”