'Too many' matches stopped for homophobia: French FA chief

The French football league and fans have been doing battle over new anti-homophobia rules

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a "whole stadium" was guilty of homophobic chanting.

"I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity," said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

"Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been," Le Graet continued. "We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished."

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

"Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues," he said.

"This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don’t want to just look good in front of the television cameras."