Discrimination in football: ‘shocking’ rise in race hate and homophobic abuse

Kick It Out’s annual report for the 2019-20 football season has revealed a “shocking” increase in the levels of race hate and homophobic abuse. 

Data released by the anti-discrimination charity shows that in spite of the season being put on hold due to the coronavirus, abuse around football matches and social media has risen at both professional and grassroots levels.

In the professional game Kick It Out saw a 42% increase in reports of discrimination, up from 313 to 446, while there was also a 53% increase in reported racial abuse, up from 184 to 282. Abuse based on sexual orientation was up by an “alarming” 95%, as the charity received 117 reports compared to 60 last season. 

At grassroots level there were 94 reports this season compared to 113 last year, a fall of 14%. However, all grassroots matches from March 2020 onwards were cancelled. Comparing this season to the equivalent period last year, there was an 11% increase in reports. 

‘A lurking pernicious threat’

A separate Kick It Out and YouGov poll of 1,000 football fans found that 39% of those surveyed had witnessed or heard an act of discrimination in the last year and 14% had witnessed abuse within the last week alone.

However, around half of those questioned said it was unlikely they’d report racist or homophobic abuse directed at players, coaches or match officials at a football game.

Sanjay Bhandari, chair at Kick It Out, has urged all authorities to share data in order to have a “complete picture” of discrimination issues in the game.

“This year the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd turned the world on its head,” he said.

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“Football responded positively with clubs increasing their work in the community and with the players symbolising the demand for greater equality of opportunity, by taking a knee. But beneath the surface, hate and division in society remains a lurking pernicious threat. 

“Our reports indicate a steep rise in discrimination reports over the last two years, which reflect the Hate Crime statistics from the Home Office that show marked national increases over the last four years. 

“But as our YouGov poll also confirms, we know that reports to Kick It Out are just the tip of the iceberg. We only report what is reported to us. There is no single view across the whole of football. 

“We need to aggregate the data across Kick It Out, clubs, law enforcement, governing bodies and others so that we have the complete picture to give us a greater chance of finding better solutions together. We urge those organisations to share data to create better insights.”


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