A FORMER Blackburn Rovers footballer has been found guilty of making a homophobic gesture at a match while playing against one of his previous clubs.
In the first case of this kind to reach court, Colin Kazim-Richards, 27, claimed he was bantering with the crowd when he made the gesture while playing against Brighton and Hove Albion.
But magistrate Darren Reynolds told the footballer they accepted the evidence of four prosecution witnesses and 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.
Following the verdict, the player's barrister Stan Reiz said he would be appealing against the conviction.
The father-of-two was on loan to Blackburn from Turkish club Galatasaray when he was seen making the gestures during Rovers Championship match at the Amex Stadium on February 12 last year. Dressed in a navy blue suit and tie, the player, who gave his address as Bishops Stortford but who currently lives in Turkey, said he was being booed and called names when he turned around and made an offensive gesture behind his back to the crowd to join in with their banter, the court heard.
Prosecutor Simon Allen told the court that the player had mimicked pulling his shorts down, put his left arm behind his bottom and made a homophobic gesture towards the Brighton crowd.
At one point he was seen by a witness backing into Brighton player Wayne Bridge and simulating a sex act which was deemed to be homophobic, the court was told.
Christopher Cannon and his son Daryl, who were working as match day press stewards, told the court they saw Kazim-Richards make the gesture more than once, found it offensive and perceived it to be homophobic.
Mr Reiz said that hand gestures were made during football matches all the time and that due to Brighton having a large gay community, an innocent hand gesture had been perceived as homophobic.
He said that for Kazim-Richards to make a homophobic gesture ‘beggared belief’. The court also heard from three character witnesses who described Kazim-Richards as polite, approachable and respectful.
An FA Spokesman said: "The incident became a police matter. We worked with police during their investigation and will continue to do so while we consider our position.”