'Shocking' rise in discrimination in football, says charity


London (AFP)

Reports of discrimination in English professional football rose by 42 percent last season, according to campaign group Kick It Out.

The charity's report for the 2019/20 season shows complaints about abuse rose to 446 from 313 in 2018/19 even though some games were played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There was an 53 percent increase in reported racial abuse, up from 184 incidents to 282, and a 95 percent rise in reports of abuse based on sexual orientation, 117 compared to 60.

A YouGov poll of 1,000 fans also found 71 percent had seen racism directed towards footballers on social media.

Kick It Out said the figures showed "shocking increases in the levels of race hate and homophobic abuse".

"This year the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd turned the world on its head," Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari said on Thursday, praising players for showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement when the Premier League resumed in June.

"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."

Paul Elliott, who chairs the Football Association's 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."