New figures released by Kick It Out show shocking increases in the levels of race hate and homophobic abuse, around football matches and across social media – in spite of the season being put on hold for several months due to Covid-19.
Kick It Out - football’s equality and inclusion organisation, supported and funded by the game's governing bodies, including the Professional Footballers Association - saw a 42% increase in reports of discrimination in total, up from 313 to 446. There was also a 53% increase in reported racial abuse in the professional game between this season and last, up from 184 to 282. Even more alarmingly, Kick It Out received 117 reports of abuse based on sexual orientation compared to 60 last season – up by 95%.
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 due to Covid-19. Comparing this season to the equivalent period last season, there was an 11% increase in reports. There were also major changes in how individuals chose to report incidents of discrimination to Kick It Out. At the professional game, phone reports plummeted by over 70%, while reports via social media leapt by 229%.
Alongside these findings, Kick It Out launched a YouGov poll with over 1,000 football fans, to gain a better understanding of discrimination incidents across the game.The results showed that 39% of fans surveyed had witnessed or heard an act of discrimination with the last year and 14% of people had witnessed abuse within the last week alone. Looking at the football season between January 2019 – December 2019, 30% said they’d witnessed racist comments or chants at a football match and a staggering 71% of those questioned also said they had witnessed racist comments on social media directed at a footballer. A further 51% of fans had also witnessed racism directed at a fan of a different team to theirs on social media.
With the issue of homophobia, the findings were equally shocking. 32% of fans said they’d witnessed homophobic comments at a football match in the last season and of these 41% of respondents have witnessed homophobic abuse aimed a footballer on social media.
Sanjay Bhandari, chair of Kick It Out, said that football had "responded positively with clubs increasing their work within the community and with the players symbolising the demand for greater equality of opportunity, by taking a knee." However, he went on to say that, "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.
"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."
Paul Elliott, Chair of the FA Inclusion Advisory Board, said: “The FA has made huge strides in recent years to ensure that English football is a diverse and inclusive game, but we know there is more to be done. Football has the unique ability to unite people and bring communities together and we will always strive to promote equality both on and off the pitch, working together with all football stakeholders including our partners at Kick It Out.
We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and, while only participants fall under The FA’s jurisdiction, we investigate all reported forms of discriminatory abuse in English football at every level of the game, and work closely with the relevant authorities to ensure matters are dealt with appropriately.”
To Report an incident...
To report an incident of discrimination at a football match in England to Kick It Out, you can call the freephone number 0800 169 9414, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet the charity’s reporting officers at @kickitoutreport. Alternatively, you can download Kick It Out’s reporting app from the Apple Store or Google Play.