Statistics recently released by football’s equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out have revealed that discriminatory abuse at football matches has risen for the sixth consecutive year, with racism accounting for more than half of reported instances. It is reported that a total of 273 incidents relating to racism were reported at football matches across the Premier League, English Football League, FA Women’s Super League, non-league and grassroots matches last season. Compared to the previous season, this was an increase of 22%.
The issue of racism in football has been particularly prominent of late, with incidents being reported such as Manchester City forward, Raheem Sterling, being subjected to alleged racial abuse from Chelsea fans during a recent match. In a post on social media, Sterling said he ‘had to laugh’ when he heard the alleged racist remarks during the game because he expects ‘no better’. The alleged racist abuse has also been criticised by many players and commentators with Match of the Day hosts Gary Lineker describing it as ‘despicable’ and Ian Wright stating ‘the bad old days are bad’.
In response to the alleged racial abuse, an FA spokesperson is reported to have stated: ‘We take all allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and will work with the clubs and the relevant authorities to ensure this matter is dealt with appropriately. 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 FAs or our partners Kick It Out.’
In research conducted by Kick It Out and the football platform Forza Football, it was found that 54% of fans worldwide have observed racist abuse whilst 74% of football fans would be in favour of FIFA considering previous racial abuse exhibited by supporters when awarding international tournaments to different countries. Kick It out Chairman, Lord Ouseley described the research as a ‘timely reminder of both the progress that has been made in tackling racism in football, and the challenges that remain’. He went on to state that ‘the governing bodies, including the FA, UEFA and FIFA, must do more to promote methods of reporting racism and they must listen to supporters' demands - clubs or countries whose supporters are racially abusive should face harsher sanctions, including points deductions’.
Being subjected to hurtful comments from an employer, colleague, organisation or employee of an organisation relating to race and/or religion or belief is a form of discrimination and this could fall under the definition of Harassment as set out in the Equality Act 2010. A person will have been subjected to harassment if they can demonstrate that they have been subjected to unwanted conduct related to their race (or any of the other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010) and that the conduct had the purpose or effect of violating their dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
By Laura Brown, discrimination team