Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

Homophobia, racism in football soar


REPORTS of racist and homophobic abuse at football matches in Britain soared to a record high in the last year, despite the disruption to the season from the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Recorded discrimina­tion in the 2019/20 season at profession­al games rose 42% to 446, with homophobic abuse almost doubling and reports of racism increasing by 53%, according to Kick It Out, an advocacy group that collates incidents.

The rise comes amid global pressure over racism sparked by the Black Lives Matters protests, though advocates and LGBT+ fan groups said it was partly due to fans being more willing to report abuse, even by their own team’s supporters.

“There’s a lot less stigma about reporting – in some ways that’s very encouragin­g,” Rodney Kumar, a spokesman for Kick It Out, said. “But obviously it’s quite alarming that we have seen pretty big increases when it comes to all manners of discrimina­tion around football, which we do want to tackle.”

Reports of discrimina­tion on social media fell almost 24%. Kumar attributed this in part to faster action by companies to remove online abuse.

Premier League clubs including Everton and West Ham United investigat­ed reports of homophobic chants at their games in December, while Chelsea, a common target of such abuse, banned a group of Manchester United fans from a game in February.

Kumar said about half the 117 incidents of homophobia at matches were groups singing songs, while half were individual­s shouting homophobic comments.

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