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Kick discrimination out of football

View profile for Maria Chadwick
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It is understood that Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, has reported a 38% increase in discriminatory behaviour in football compared to this time last year.

The report found that there have been 111 incidents across the premier league, the championship, league one and league two since August 2017. This included 64 complaints about discrimination in the premier league. The report found that this covered reports of discrimination relating to race, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and religion or belief. Race discrimination formed the highest proportion of acts of discrimination reported at 54% of all complaints.

Kick It Out recently reported to the BBC that social media is where they have seen the highest increase in reported incidents as they have seen a rise in discriminatory abuse on social media platforms. Additionally, Kick It Out said that they believed that the increase of incidents reported was due to a greater variety of tools which are now available to report incidents of discrimination. For example, those who wish to report incidents of discrimination can now report via the use of a reporting app, on social media, by telephone or through the Report It! feature on Kick It Out’s website.

It is reported that Lord Ouseley, the chairperson of Kick It Out, has requested that the game’s authorities take serious action in regards to the discriminatory behaviour reported in the sport. Lord Ousley stated that football should “not have complacency when it comes to challenging prejudice.”

The Law

The law on discrimination is set out by the Equality Act 2010. To bring a claim under this legislation, a person must prove that they have been suffered a detriment and treated less favourably that others because a protected characteristic. 

The acts of discrimination in football which have been reported include what have been considered to be racist tweets by fans to footballers. Although this behaviour would be deemed as discriminatory and it is clear that such issues are prevalent in football, it would not be possible to bring a claim for discrimination for the majority of these acts by individual persons.

This is because it is not possible for someone to bring a claim for discrimination against another individual in a civil claim of discrimination in the County Court save in exceptional circumstances allowed for under the provisions of the act or where the individuals are employed by/affiliated with an organisation which is also considered to be at fault and are therefore also a defendant to a proposed claim.

It is therefore apparent that alternative strategies need to be employed in football in order to address this widespread problem. This could include individual football clubs and the Football Association banning those who are found to have made discriminatory comments or criminal proceedings being brought under the Football (Offences) Act 1991 for indecent chanting.

Given that the scope of the Football (Offences) Act 1991 does not incorporate offences on social media, a new offence or widening the scope of the legislation may be appropriate for consideration. 

If you believe that you have been discriminated against at work or in other circumstances, please contact our specialist discrimination law team for advice on how it may be addressed on 01616 966 229.

By Charlie Bradbury, employment and discrimination team