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Barcelona support gay Spanish referee, plan pro-LGBT events

Jesus Tomillero was the target of verbal abuse at games because of his sexual orientation.

Spain's first openly gay referee will be invited to attend a Barcelona game in the coming weeks as the Catalan club look to lead the fight against anti-gay behaviour in football.

Barca confirmed to ESPN FC that they have already been in touch with Jesus Tomillero, but they are yet to pencil in a date for him to visit Camp Nou. They anticipate it will be sooner rather than later, though.

As well as the presence of Tomillero, Barca also plan to organise other acts to take a stand against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) prejudice in sport, although the details of what exactly that will entail will be confirmed closer to the time.

Tomillero, 21, came out last year and was forced to quit refereeing in May after the abuse became too much. 

However, he decided to reverse that decision and returned to the game in September. The abuse continued, though, he said.

During a match in Andalusia's second division last month a supporter shouted an anti-gay insult at him after he had awarded a penalty. The game was stopped and the man removed, but he got back into the ground and shouted more insults at Tomillero.

The abuse then spread to social media and Tomillero reported it to the police and he has since said that he will "keep on doing what I like doing, whatever it costs, but I am really, really scared."

In the Premier League, Burnley striker Andre Gray is currently serving a four-match suspension for historic anti-gay tweets posted four years ago when he was playing for non-league Hinckley United. 

The tweets emerged after Gray had scored in his side's 2-0 win over Liverpool.

He stressed in a statement that he was a changed man from the one who posted such statements. Despite his apology, the Football Association still decided to ban him.

According to recent research from the UK's leading LGBT equality charity Stonewall, nearly 75 percent of British football fans have heard anti-gay abuse at matches during the past five years. A similar study is not available in Spain.

Barcelona now hope they can contribute to the crackdown of prejudices in football.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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