Three arrested over 'unacceptable abuse' during Brighton vs Chelsea

Sussex Police confirm two incidents of homophobic abuse and one of racist abuse at Premier League match; Brighton's Paul Barber calls for "more severe punishments" from courts

Brighton
Image: Brighton issued a statement detailing the arrests of two home fans and one Chelsea supporter

Police have confirmed three fans were arrested for "unacceptable abuse" during Brighton's home draw against Chelsea on New Year's Day.

Sussex Police released a statement on Thursday confirming details of three hate crime-related arrests that were made during the match at the Amex Stadium.

A 21-year-old man from Brighton - a home fan - was arrested on suspicion of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress (homophobic abuse). He has been released on conditional bail until 29 January.

A 56-year-old man from Portslade - another home fan - was arrested on suspicion of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress (racist abuse). He has been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

A 21-year-old man from East Preston - an away supporter - was arrested on suspicion of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress (homophobic abuse), and has been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

Brighton had already confirmed in a club statement issued earlier on Thursday that two home fans and a Chelsea supporter had been arrested for "three separate incidents of unacceptable abuse".

"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," the statement read.

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Albion said the Chelsea fan was removed by club stewards for homophobic abuse aimed at home supporters, adding: "All three were arrested by Sussex Police outside the stadium and now face prosecution."

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Brighton's chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber said in the statement: "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."

'Important to take action'

Stonewall, the charity which runs the Rainbow Laces campaign for LGBT inclusion in sport, has praised Brighton's response to the incidents.

Stonewall's director of sport Robbie de Santos said: "Tackling racist and anti-LGBT language is a crucial part of making sure all people feel welcome in sport.

"Incidents like this show how much work is left to combat discrimination and the use of hateful language against minority groups.

"It's really important that Brighton & Hove Albion FC stepped up and took action to show that hateful slurs are unacceptable and the club is committed to creating an inclusive environment.

"The more players, fans, clubs and organisations that stand up for equality in sport, the sooner we kick discrimination out and make sport everyone's game."

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