Arrests for racist and indecent chants double
Arrests for racist and indecent chanting in English football more than doubled last season, despite the coronavirus crisis denying fans access to more than 500 matches, according to a Home Office report.
In a troubling turn of events, it has emerged that there were 35 such arrests for 2019-20, compared to 14 in 2018-19, even though a total of 546 games were either cancelled or played behind closed doors.
The report also logged for the first time every hate crime incident – whether online or in person – which was reported to the UK Football Policing Unit by the equality and inclusion body, Kick It Out, or the Football Association.
It found that there were hatecrime incidents related to 287 matches, a figure which was second only to the use of pyrotechnics at 309 fixtures and which the country’s football police chief branded “incredibly concerning”.
The incidents reported often included more than one form of discrimination, with the report documenting that 75 per cent of the offences related to race and 27 per cent to sexual identity. Of the hate crimes, 23 mentioned religion, three related to disability and one to gender identity.
Concern was also raised about the number of reports of assaults on stadium staff and police officers, which were only just below the 2018-19 levels, despite the mass reduction in fan attendance. In total, there were 120 reports of stadium staff being assaulted last season, only five fewer than the figure for the previous year. There were 46 reports of police officers being attacked compared to 57 in 2018-19.
Mark Roberts, deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police and the UK’s football police chief, said: “The hate crime figures are incredibly concerning. We want to see this behaviour eradicated from football. 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.
“It is important the clubs and the leagues continue to ensure the police are made aware of all incidents so local forces can work with them to tackle the incidents.
“We are also working to help tackle the causes of hate crime, with a mixture of education, helping those involved to understand the harm it causes, and diversionary activities for young supporters. This will remain a focus until we are able to eliminate this vile behaviour.”
The Home Office report also looked at banning orders and other football-related arrests and found there were 1,089 football-related arrests in 2019-20, a 21 per cent drop on the previous year, albeit with far fewer games played in front of fans.
Leeds United had the worst record, with 52 arrests, followed by Birmingham City (49) and Bolton Wanderers (45).