There has been a huge spike in homophobic and racist abuse in football over the last year, according to new figures figures released Thursday (September 3).
Kick It Out, an organisation that monitors discrimination in football, found that there was a significant rise in discriminatory abuse at both football matches and in discussions about football online.
There was a 42 per cent increase in reports of discrimination in professional football, up from 313 last year to 446 in the 2019/20 football season.
Alarmingly, there were 117 reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation, almost double the 60 incidents recorded last year (up 95 per cent).
There was also a 53 per cent increase in racist discrimination in football – 282, up from 184 last year.
At a grassroots level, Kick It Out recorded 94 reports of discrimination in the 2019/2020 football season, down from 113 last year. However, the organisation noted that this was likely due to widespread cancellations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The advocacy group said that, when compared with the equivalent period of last season, there was actually an 11 per cent increase in discriminatory incidents at a grassroots level.
Kick It Out also released the results of a YouGov poll which surveyed 1,000 football fans about discrimination in the sport.
Some 39 per cent of those surveyed said they had heard or witnessed an act of discrimination in the last year, while 14 per cent said they had witnessed an incident in the last week.
Between January and December 2019, 30 per cent witnessed racist comments or chants at a football match, while a whopping 71 per cent said they had seen racist abuse directed at a footballer on social media.
A further 51 per cent of those surveyed had seen racism directed at a fan of an opposing team on social media.
Meanwhile, 32 per cent of fans surveyed said they had witnessed homophobic abuse at a football match, while 41 per cent had seen homophobia aimed at a footballer on social media.
Kick It Out will play its part with campaigning, education and talent programmes that diversify the face of football. But this is everyone’s responsibility.
Worryingly, 22 per cent of respondents said they would be unlikely to report a discriminatory incident at a football match.
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Half of those surveyed said they would be unlikely to report racist or homophobic abuse aimed at footballers, coaches or match officials at a football game.
Sanjay Bhandari, chair of Kick It Out, said “hate and division” pose a “pernicious threat” to society.
“Our reports indicate a steep rise in discrimination reports over the last two years,” he said, noting that their figures are in line with increases in hate crime reports.
“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.”
He also urged social media companies to be “part of the solution” and join in the fight to tackle online hate speech.
“Kick It Out will play its part with campaigning, education and talent programmes that diversify the face of football. But this is everyone’s responsibility.
“We all need to do more. We all need to take a stand,” Bhandari added.