Discrimination in both professional and grassroots football rose significantly in the 2018/19 season with reports up by 32 per cent, new figures show.
Statistics from Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, show reports rose to 422 in 2018/19, up from 319 in the previous year.
Alarmingly, incidents of racism continue to rise. It remains the most common form of discrimination in both professional and grassroots football, constituting 65 per cent of reports – a 43 per cent rise from 2017/18.
Although an increase in reports could highlight a more confident approach to reporting incidents, the leap in reports could also identify that discrimination across the game is still an issue which needs ongoing and constant education and the application of appropriate sanctions.
Faith-based discrimination, which includes Islamophobia and antisemitism, rose higher than any other across this period, with reports increasing by 75 per cent from 36 to 63.
Discrimination related to sexual orientation increased by 12 per cent from 61 to 68. Reports related to gender remained at the same level (eight), while disability discrimination reports dropped from 15 to nine.
In the overall figures, which include social media incidents, discrimination reports increased to 581, a 12 per cent rise from the season before (520).
The FA have not informed Kick It Out of the outcome in seventy-nine per cent of the 109 cases reported in grassroots football. Forty per cent of these reports were from youth football (under-18). Of this figure, The FA have not informed Kick It Out of 80 per cent of the County FA verdicts.
Discrimination reports in the professional game rose by 46 per cent to 313, with an outcome received in 62 per cent of cases.
The statistics are compiled from all levels of English football, including the Premier League, English Football League (EFL), FA Women’s Super League, non-league and grassroots fixtures.
The 2018/19 season saw a change in the way online discrimination is recorded. The organisation received 159 discrimination reports from social media in 2018/19. Again, the most common form of reported incidents was racism (62 per cent).
Historically, each individual discriminatory comment on social media was recorded as an incident. However, from the 2018/19 season Kick It Out developed a systematic approach to its monitoring and recorded only the initial comment in order to capture a more concise record of such posts. Kick It Out, over a number of years, has stated that football discrimination online is a significant issue that must be addressed.
Even with a new way of compiling social media reports, there was an increase in discrimination reports for the seventh consecutive year.
On the numbers, Kick It Out CEO, Roisin Wood OBE said:
“Football reflects the society it is played and watched in and these figures are sadly not surprising. The fact that racist reports have risen by 43 per cent clearly shows the massive work that all of football still needs to do to challenge this. In 2019 we need to ask the question what can we do better and what is not working?
“The sharp increase in faith-based based discrimination is also worrying and represents a challenge to us all - what are we doing to address this intolerance?
“We feel that incidents at grassroots level are still under-reported and this could be due to the length of time it takes a complainant to get their case satisfactorily concluded, and even then there’s often disenchantment in the type of sanctions handed out. We need to build confidence that if you report a grassroots incident it will be dealt with effectively and efficiently.
“The online statistics in our view represent the tip of the iceberg and we renew our call for social media platforms - and the government - to help tackle growing incidents of online hate.”