A homophobic incident occurred during Hamburger SV’s second division home game against FC Hansa Rostock on Sunday afternoon. In the north stand, fans had held up a banner with a homophobic slogan in the direction of the guests.
The game was intended to commemorate club legend Uwe Seeler, who had died a few days earlier at the age of 85. Before the game started, fans dressed all in black held up two appropriate banners.
“Actually, it all started with the Uwe-Seeler choreography,” says a fan who wishes to remain anonymous. “I was sitting in the midst of the Hansa Rostock fans, who suddenly read what was on a banner from the north stand.” When she then looked to the stands and saw the banner with the homophobic slogan, she was shocked and disappointed at the same time.
“For players who aren’t straight, it must be terrible to be insulted by your own fans. But it’s also painful for fans who are queer. I thought we were much further along now.”
As long as there were such insults in the stands, no professional would dare to come out.” She expects the club to investigate the incident extensively and impose appropriate sanctions. “People don’t need to be banned from the stadium for life, but they need to learn their lesson.”
Pascal Kaiser, who is a referee in the Prignitz and recently made it public to be bisexual, takes a similar view: “Actions like this do not make coming out any easier. On the contrary: They help queer people who have not yet taken the step to come out to withdraw further.”
HSV condemned the incident immediately after the final whistle. The second division club wrote on Twitter: “We clearly distance ourselves from discriminatory content. Discrimination has no place in the Volksparkstadion and at HSV.” He then announced that he would take steps to clarify the matter.
Cristin Gießler, who works for the Fan Cultures and Sports-Related Social Work Competence Group (KoFaS) and heads the “Diversity in the Stadium – Access, Protection and Participation” project, praises the quick response: “It’s good that the incident was taken up directly and clearly as discrimination was mentioned. There has been a positive development in recent years: homophobia is named as such and there is no longer any talk of homophobia in clubs or in the media.”
Her colleague Almut Sülzle, who works as a researcher at KoFaS, also says: “The Hansa hooligan should be insulted as gay. This is a disparagement, a homophobic insult. It’s good that HSV quickly condemned it.”
Since 2019, FIFA has been using a three-stage procedure that enables referees to intervene in serious discriminatory incidents. The referees can therefore stop, suspend or even cancel the game. These rules apply to all Fifa competitions. Associations and leagues are encouraged, but not obliged, to implement them at national level.
“I think it’s right that the rules were introduced, but they also have to be implemented consistently,” says Christian Rudolph, head of the contact point for gender and sexual diversity at the German Football Association.
“The other possibility would be for players to leave the field on their own, in the case of sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination.” The Dietmar Hopp case has shown that teams are quite capable of doing this. At a Bundesliga game two years ago, he was insulted on a banner from the Bayern curve, whereupon the players of both teams ended the game and only passed the ball back and forth.
“That’s bizarre: It works for Hopp and not for anti-discrimination,” says Rudolph.
Gießler finds the application of the three-step plan in the case of HSV rather inappropriate. This refers to the protection of players. “The DFB itself says that the procedure should not be used in an inflationary manner in order to avoid discrimination being trivialized. In addition, the question arises as to which regulations are actually suitable for such incidents.”
Unfortunately, it is part of the fan logic to devalue the opponent and that apparently still works well by devaluing masculinity. In many fan scenes, traditional notions of masculinity would dominate, so sexism and homophobia played a major role. “You can’t prevent something like this from being shown with bans. You can rely more on self-regulation in the corners and on other fans having a positive effect.”
Within the fan scenes there are numerous initiatives that campaign against discrimination, such as “Football fans against homophobia” or “Queer football fan clubs”.
These initiatives have played a large part in the fact that awareness of homophobia in football has increased enormously over the past ten years, says Gießler.
Rudolph therefore calls for them to be strengthened and financially supported in order to take the necessary preventive measures. “You shouldn’t lump all fans together, because there are numerous fans who position themselves very clearly.”
Such statements could already be read away in the cup in Bayreuth next Saturday. The “Welcoming Out” initiative is to be presented at the next home game in August.