Reports of racist abuse in English football rose by 43% – from 192 to 274 – last season, anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out says.
Statistics gathered by the organisation show reports of all forms of discrimination in professional and grassroots football increased by 32% to 422, up from 319 during 2017-18.
In professional football alone, reports rose by 46% while Kick It Out received 159 reports from social media.
Faith-based discrimination rose by 75%.
Reports of faith-based discrimination – including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism – increased by a higher percentage than any other form of abuse during the period, as reports rose from 36 to 63.
It is the seventh consecutive year reported incidents of discrimination within football have increased, and the 581 total reports is more than double the figure from five years ago.
“Football reflects the society it is played and watched in and these figures are sadly not surprising,” Kick It Out chief executive Roisin Wood said.
“The fact that racist reports have risen by 43% 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?”
Responding to the figures, the Football Association said in a statement: “The FA has made huge strides in recent years to ensure that English football is a diverse and inclusive game.
“Most recently, the FA launched its ‘In Pursuit of Progress’ inclusion plan which has clear targets and ambitions to make sure our game better reflects modern society. This involves creating opportunities in football, both on and off the pitch, for people of all backgrounds.
“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 of discrimination are reported by the County FAs to the FA, who oversee all discrimination cases and take the appropriate steps.
“We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and encourage all fans and participants who believe that they have been the subject of, or witness to, discriminatory abuse to report it through the appropriate channels: the FA, our County FA network or via our partners at Kick It Out.”
Incidents of racism marred the 2018-19 season, with Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang among several players to face abuse.
In December, Manchester City and England forward Sterling suffered alleged racist abuse from Chelsea fans during City’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, and followed that the next morning with an Instagram post in which he questioned newspapers’ portrayal of black players and said it fed prejudice and aggressive behaviour.
In March, Sterling was vocal in condemning the racist abuse received by England players during their 5-1 win in Montenegro as well as offering support to his younger team-mate Callum Hudson-Odoi.
And in April he was quick to call out Leonardo Bonucci when the Juventus defender suggested that his team-mate Moise Kean was partly to blame for the racist abuse he received from Cagliari fans.
He was presented with his Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award in the same month, with FWA chair Carrie Brown citing his public stance on racist abuse as being just as important as his exploits on the pitch.
Incidents of racist abuse in 2018-19
- December: Banana skin thrown on to the pitch during the north London derby at Emirates Stadium, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored for Arsenal
- December: Raheem Sterling suffers alleged racial abuse during Manchester City’s defeat at Chelsea. Sterling later says newspapers are helping to “fuel racism” by the ways in which they portray young black footballers
- March: Chelsea lodge a complaint with Uefa over racist abuse aimed at Callum Hudson-Odoi during Europa League last-16 second leg win at Dynamo Kiev
- March: England report racist abuse of players during their 5-1 win over Montenegro in Podgorica
- April: Juventus’ 19-year-old Italian forward Moise Kean suffers racist abuse from the stands during a match at Cagliari – with team-mate Leonardo Bonucci’s suggestion that Kean was partly to blame called “laughable” by Raheem Sterling
- April: Two incidents of alleged racist abuse, towards Derby winger Duane Holmes and Wigan defender Nathan Byrne, are reported in the Championship
- April: Troy Deeney and Watford team-mates Adrian Mariappa and Christian Kabasele receive racist abuse on social media
- April: Ashley Young receives racist abuse online following Manchester United’s Champions League defeat in Barcelona
What is being done about it?
In April, the Professional Footballers’ Association asked players to send them evidence of racist online abuse in order to demonstrate to governing bodies the severity of the issue.
The PFA planned to show the posts to the sports minister and a number of football bodies at a meeting in May, while meetings with Twitter and Facebook were also requested after a number of high-profile incidents.
Players were previously encouraged to boycott social media for 24 hours as part of the #Enough campaign.
Commenting on the level of abuse suffered online, Wood added: “The online statistics in our view represent the tip of the iceberg.
“We renew our call for social media platforms – and the government – to help tackle growing incidents of online hate.”