The recently finished 2019/2020 football season saw an increase in reported cases of race hate and homophobia across all levels of English football, a new report by anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out has found.
The figures are particularly troubling considering a huge chunk of matches were played without fans present, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced fixtures to take place behind closed doors.
Kick It Out reported a 42 percent rise in reports of all forms of discrimination in the professional game, with a 54 percent increase in racial abuse from the previous season. The highest individual rise was in “abuse based on sexual orientation”, which was up by 95 percent.
All non-professional matches were cancelled in March due to the pandemic, but there was still an 11 percent increase at this level compared to the equivalent period in the season before.
In a statement, Sanjay Bhandari, chair of Kick It Out, said: “This year, the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd turned the world on its head. 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.”
In partnership with YouGov, Kick It Out also found that 39 percent of fans had personally witnessed an act of discrimination over the last season.
It’s not just at matches, either: 72 percent of supporters had seen racist comments sent to players on social media, with another 51 percent reporting they had seen abuse directed online at other fans.
“As our YouGov poll also confirms, we know that reports to Kick It Out are just the tip of the iceberg,” Bhandari added. “We only report what is reported to us.”