Football hate crime: Arrests for racism-related offences on the rise

Police in attendance at a football match
Racism was reported at 214 football matches, or online in connection with those matches, across the UK in the 2019-20 season

Incidents of hate crime connected to 287 football matches in England and Wales were reported in 2019-20, according to new Home Office figures.external-link

Of those incidents, 75% related to race (214 matches), while 27% related to sexual orientation (78 matches).

Compared to the previous season, arrests for racist or indecent chanting more than doubled from 14 to 35, despite hundreds of matches being cancelled or played without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time the figures include online incidents connected to particular games, and are therefore not directly comparable with previous data.

Nevertheless, the national lead for football policing, deputy chief constable Mark Roberts, said the figures were "incredibly concerning" and he wanted such incidents "eradicated" from football.

Earlier this month, anti-racism charity Kick It Out said there had been a 42% increase in reports of discrimination in English professional football last season.

Football was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the Premier League and Championship resuming in June without fans in stadiums.

There were still instances of players being racially abused on social media, with Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick among those targeted.

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari said everyone needed to "mobilise" against the rise in hate.

"Kick It Out will play its part with campaigning, education and talent programmes that diversify the face of football. But this is everyone's responsibility," Bhandari added.

"We all need to do more and we all need to take a stand against discrimination."

The Home Office said it was "bringing forward legislation to force social media companies to remove racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic abuse and we are working closer than ever before with the football authorities to bring perpetrators to justice."

"We are working closely with Kick it Out, the Premier League and other partners, with a concerted effort to tackle hate crime both in the stadium and online," added Roberts.

Other findings from the 2019-20 season:

  • There were 1,089 football-related arrests, down 21% from 2018-19
  • Leeds United were the club with the highest number of arrests (52), followed by Birmingham City (49) and Bolton Wanderers (45).
  • There were 246 matches where public order or anti-social behaviour incidents involving youth risk supporters (a supporter aged 25 or under) were recorded.
  • The report also showed 360 new banning orders were issued in 2019-20, down 34% from 2018-19.
  • Stoke had the most banning orders in force during 2019-20 (52), while Mansfield Town and Bolton were the clubs whose supporters were issued the most new banning orders in the season - 34 and 24.

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