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9 April 2014, 16:36
A former Brighton and Hove Albion player has been found guilty of and been fined for making homophobic gestures at the crowd at the Amex Stadium.
Former Blackburn Rovers footballer Colin Kazim-Richards has been found guilty of making a homophobic gesture at a match while playing against one of his previous clubs.
The 27-year-old claimed he was bantering with the crowd when he allegedly made a homophobic gesture towards them while playing against Brighton and Hove Albion, a court has heard.
But magistrate Darren Reynolds sitting at Brighton Magistrates' Court, told the footballer they accepted the evidence the four prosecution witnesses had given them.
Mr Reynolds said: "We find that these gestures were insulting and believe that you were aware that such gestures would be insulting."
Kazim-Richards was fined £750, ordered to pay £620 court costs and a £75 victim surcharge after being found guilty of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, within the sight or hearing of a person, likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Outside court, Pc Darren Balkham, football liaison officer for Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove Albion, said they hoped that today's conviction would show that homophobia was not acceptable on the terraces or in society.
He said: "The Brighton fans have been subjected to a lot of homophobic abuse over many years and this was somewhat of a test case involving a professional footballer.''
Pc Balkham said Kazim-Richard's actions stepped over the line of what was reasonable and acceptable banter at a football match and added that it was not acceptable to do something like that on the pitch.
He said: "This was the first case where a professional footballer has been convicted of making a homophobic gesture towards the crowd.
"I have been doing this job for 15 seasons and Brighton fans have been subjected during that time to pockets of homophobic abuse around the country.
"We are where racism was 20 years ago but I do not think it is going to take us 20 years to catch up with society as it is today.
"We deal with homophobic incidents day in, day out. On the football side of it, we have had to educate people.
"Colin Kazim-Richards played for Brighton. He knew what Brighton is about and he admitted that in court.
"People do things in the heat of the moment but when you are on show like a professional footballer is, you are always on show.
"When you do something like this, you have to take the consequences.''
Pc Balkham said he had been in constant contact with the Football Association, which had told him it would not be taking any action until the court case concluded.
But he said it had little power to do anything now the footballer plays in Turkey.