Kick It Out says reports of racism and homophobia continue to rise

Liverpool and England forward Rhian Brewster
Liverpool and England forward Rhian Brewster, 18, says he has been racially abused four times in his fledgling career

Reports of discriminatory abuse in football increased 11% last season - a sixth successive annual rise.

Figures from anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out reveal a total of 520 reports, up from 469 in 2016-17.

Reports of racism make up 53% of the overall total - up 22% from the previous season - while reports of homophobia have increased 9%.

"We are at our most worrying period of time within the game," Kick It Out's Troy Townsend told BBC Sport.

"The risk to the game is that it's taking us back to a time which some people thought never existed. Twenty five years ago, hatred towards black players was at its highest. But how far have we come?

"Whilst there is great work being done, there must be more resources and stronger messages put out. The game has to look at itself. These figures should be a sharp reminder that we are not as far as forward as maybe we thought."

The figures do not include discrimination reported to club stewards, which Kick It Out education manager Townsend said could mean the real picture was "a lot worse".

"We are relying on people providing information to us, but if they don't report it and it's not actioned then we are only really getting a snapshot of what is happening in stadiums."

The biggest increase came in disability discrimination reports, which rose by 107% from 14 to 29, while 10% of all reports were related to anti-Semitism.

There was a 13% drop in reports of sexism, and those associated with faith fell 24%.

Cases reported at English Football League matches have risen by 30%, but cases in the Premier League have remained almost the same. Across the entire professional game there was a 10% increase overall from 194 in 2016-17 to 214 in 2017-18.

Grassroots discrimination reports rose by 35% across the same period, with racism (71%) and disability (33%) the most common forms of discrimination reported.

The statistics are compiled from all levels of the game, including the Premier League, EFL, FA Women's Super League, non-league and grassroots fixtures.

Townsend, whose son Andros plays for Crystal Palace, said the picture at grassroots level was "horrendous" and said there was enough money in the game to tackle the overall problem properly.

"The problem at grassroots football is it's un-policed," he added. "A lot of perpetrators at that level are getting away with it, including people watching and parents.

"I'd like to be optimistic, but after the statistics provided, there is no way I can be and believe that things will be OK two or three years down the line.

"Are we doing enough in the game to stamp hatred out of football? What more can all football bodies do to identify the perpetrators, provide the right education and how do we make the game more inclusive?

"If we want to eradicate the discrimination that's continuing, then we need to put a level of money behind it to make sure it's properly resourced and we are challenging it from all angles.

"Football has such a power that surely we can come together to continue to make changes?"

What do football bodies say?

The Premier League: "Premier League football is open to everyone and our clubs work hard to promote equality and diversity in everything they do, from the atmosphere and experience in their stadiums to the many sport and education projects they run in their communities.

"A slight increase in reporting of incidents of discrimination at Premier League matches shows that more needs to be done in this area, but that must be balanced against the work the league and its clubs have undertaken with Kick It Out to develop and promote the reporting app which provides a simple and discreet way for fans and participants to raise any concerns they have.

"Clubs have also worked hard with stewards to ensure reporting is encouraged and that any complaints are given high priority."

The Football Association: "We encourage all fans and participants who believe they have been the subject of, or witness to, discriminatory abuse to report this through the appropriate channels.

"The FA has funded two extra grassroots officers, based at Kick It Out, who work directly with our County FA network as well as grassroots clubs and community groups, partly to encourage and raise awareness of reporting discrimination channels.

"Additionally we have a robust system in place to ensure aggravated breaches (discrimination cases) are reported to the FA centrally at Wembley from the County FA network, which the local leagues feed into, as The FA oversees all discrimination cases."

The EFL: "The EFL remains committed to working with the relevant parties to ensure football provides a welcoming environment for all those supporters attending matches.

"We continue to work closely with EFL clubs, Kick it Out and other relevant bodies to ensure improved reporting mechanisms are in place and we believe this is now making this process easier and more manageable for fans."

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