Football’s equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out has revealed there was a 42 per cent increase in reports of discrimination in the professional game last season.
The charity’s annual report for 2019-20 shows the figure for reports made to it having gone up from 313 in 2018-19 to 446.
The revelation comes ahead of the new Premier League season and follows the Westminster Chaplain for Sport’s call for bigots to face strict and serious punishments.
According to Kick It Out, there was an increase of 53 per cent in reported racial abuse, up from 184 incidents to 282, and a 95 per cent rise in reports of abuse based on sexual orientation, 117 compared to 60.
At grassroots level, the number of reports was down from 113 to 94, but that was with no matches from March onwards due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Comparing the season to the equivalent period in 2018-19, there was an 11 per cent increase.
While there was a reduction in complaints made to Kick It Out in terms of abuse on social media, the charity believes this reflects greater public awareness of ways of reporting directly to social media companies.
The charity also held a YouGov poll with over 1,000 football fans, with the results showing 39 per cent of those surveyed had witnessed or heard an act of discrimination last year.
Thirty per cent said they had witnessed racist comments or chants at a football match, and 71 per cent of those questioned also said they had witnessed racist comments on social media directed at a footballer.
The figures were 32 per cent and 41 per cent with regard to homophobic abuse.
As reported in last week’s Catholic Universe, Mgr Vladimir Felzmann welcomed the Football Association’s move to outline changes to the rules regarding racist and other discriminatory offences in a video sent to players and clubs ahead of the new season.
Speaking of the tougher rules, he told The Catholic Universe: “The punishment needs to be serious enough to dissuade racists from opening their mouths. The new normal needs to be racist-clean – in grounds and anywhere.”
There new rules include a sanction range for a first offence of between six and 12 matches. The FA can also now consider allegations of discriminatory conduct outside of a standard football setting, such as at a private party.
Picture: A Kick It Out initiative banner. (Martin Rickett/EMPICS Sport).