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Barton escapes ban for 'ladyboy' tweet

Joey Barton has been handed a two-match suspended ban for the barrage of insulting tweets he aimed at Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva, whom the Marseille midfielder described as "an overweight ladyboy".

• Mbia angling for OM return

The Englishman, on loan at the Stade Velodrome from recently relegated Premier League club Queens Park Rangers, fired a series of verbal volleys at the Brazilian defender via the social networking site during PSG's Champions League quarter-final first leg in April.

Barton was irked after the Brazilian had referred to him in a press conference leading up to the clash with Barca, and questioned whether the player was "pre-op or post-op [transsexual]'' and described him as an "overweight ladyboy".

The 30-year-old did not attend the hearing in front of the French Football Federation's ethics committee - the first of its kind in France - which ruled that he would be allowed to play in OM's final three league games of the season as his comments were rude but not offensive.

The comments brought immediate condemnation from gay rights campaigners while PSG called them "unacceptable".

In Barton's defence, his lawyers showed the committee footage of Barton speaking out in support of gay footballers in a BBC documentary screened early last year. "His lawyers were scared that the commission would think he'd made homophobic remarks," Laurent Davenas, the committee's president, was reported as saying by AP. "He is against homophobia. The comments he made against Thiago Silva were not homophobic."

The ban will only come into effect if he commits a similar offence, and it is not related to his actions on the pitch.

Marseille still have a mathematical chance of snatching the league title from PSG's grasp, although they would have to win all three of their remaining games and hope the leaders lose each of their final three fixtures.