Britain

Racist incidents in football ‘on the rise’

Footballers are facing a spike in racist abuse on and off the pitch, according to campaign group Kick It Out.

The number of racist incidents in football is expected to rise again this season, the group told Sky News.

Racism remains the most common form of discrimination in professional and grassroots football and this season has already seen high-profile incidents.

"The sense from everyone is that this is on a rise and that there's an increase," says Sanjay Bhandari from equality organisation Kick It Out.

Racism makes up 65% of all reported incidents in football, according to data collated by the group.

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Last year, reports rose 43% and it isn't limited to the terraces; racism is also the most common form of football-related discrimination on social media, at 62%.

Kick It Out says social media is exacerbating the problem.

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"That enables people to express views that have been long suppressed," says Mr Bhandari.

"Part of the rise in discrimination is down to identity politics, the rise of extremism, and the polarisation of society.

"And you combine that with things like automation, income inequality, people feeling they are left out or not heard.

"All of these factors seem to combine to create a toxic environment and that's exacerbated by the tone of the political discourse. It's much more extreme that it has been probably for 30, 40 years."

Prejudice and the national game

The recent Manchester derby threw a spotlight back on racism after a fan was seen making monkey gestures towards United players.

Fred, the team's midfielder, appeared to be hit by a lighter thrown from the crowd.

This abuse is not confined to the UK.

In October, the England team faced Nazi salutes and monkey chants from the Bulgarian crowd in Sofia and a large group of fans were thrown out of the stadium.

But enforcement measures and club bans can't solve the problem on their own.

"It will continue to occur within stadiums unless there's a collective response to sorting the problem out," says Shaun Currie, safety officer at Wigan Athletic.

Fred
Image: Fred (2nd right) appeared to be hit by a lighter during the Manchester derby

Clubs are doing what they can to police crowds.

Wigan Athletic invited Sky News to see their control room during a match against West Bromwich Albion.

Serious incidents are rare at Wigan – the last was a confrontation in March – but Mr Currie explains it is easier to identify a group than an individual when policing racism in the stands.

"It probably goes on at most games but it's probably unidentified because people are too frightened to actually point somebody out," Mr Currie explains.

"Where the stewards are located, if they're at the front of the stand, there's a lot of noise coming at them so it's difficult to identify one individual's shout or whatever."

But it seems intolerance of this abuse is on the rise too.

October's match between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town was abandoned after reports of racism in the stands.

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