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Ref halts Nice-Marseille over anti-gay banners

The Ligue 1 game between Nice and Marseille was halted for several minutes during the first half on Wednesday after the home fans unfurled two banners with anti-gay messages.

One banner referred to Tuesday's takeover of Nice by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, Britain's richest man who is the owner of chemicals giant Ineos.

The banner displayed a play on words referring to the fact Ratcliffe also owns the Team Ineos cycling.

Another banner at the Allianz Riviera criticised French league authorities for approving more fenced off sections in the stands, saying it makes for "more gay" stadiums. That was followed by sporadic chanting against the French league -- or LFP -- with an anti-gay slur.

Referee Clement Turpin interrupted the game midway through the first half and play resumed about 10 minutes later in a match Marseille would go on to win 2-1.

Earlier this month, referee Mehdi Mokhtari stopped a second-division match between Nancy and Le Mans for about a minute after an initial appeal made over the speakers to stop anti-gay chanting failed to have an effect. The game continued shortly afterward.

The French league told referees before the season to stop games in such cases and has pondered introducing a list of banned words in stadiums.

In March, French football league president Nathalie Boy de la Tour came under fire after saying that anti-gay chants were part of the culture of the sport.

"It's part of the folklore," she said.

Information from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this story.

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