Welsh rugby referee Nigel Owens has said that he hopes fans will not "cross the line" with homophobic abuse during todays England v France game at Twickenham.
The game marks his return to the stadium for the first time since an incident last November resulted in two England supporters receiving a two-year ban from Twickenham
Owens told The Telegraph
that he hopes understands fans will be "pasionate" and that he expects a "bit of banter and a bit of humour", but asked them to think twice before shouting anything that could "cross the line of what is acceptable or not".
"If they are shouting things that are unacceptable about me, it does not really bother me because I won’t hear it, but there could be somebody sitting around them who is dealing with issues in their life and is finding things difficult. To hear these people shouting sometimes can be enough to tip somebody over the edge," he said.
"I have been in that situation myself and know how difficult it is. Shout a bit of abuse and friendly banter by all means, and I hope that is never lost from the terraces. But think before you are going to shout something personal that can hurt. It won’t hurt me, but it may hurt somebody sitting a few seats away from you."
Owes told the paper that he has not experienced any homophobic abuse since the incident, but admitted that he does not believe that it will never happen again.
"I am sure that if anything serious happens, not just at Twickenham but any other stadium, that the governing bodies in rugby will do all they can to deal with it and to prevent it happening," he said.
"We have to be realistic and understand if you have 85,000 people in that stadium, it is not possible to control what people are going to shout and in any stadium in the world you can get a few individuals [who shout abuse].
"The biggest positive that came out of this negative was that individuals in that stadium were willing to stand up to this homophobic abuse and make a stance that it is not acceptable. That is the most important message to get out of this unfortunate incident."
He added: "That is the best way to deal with any sort of unacceptable abuse. The people there have to stand up and be counted."
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