Reports of racism, homophobia in UK football soar

LONDON, Sept 4- 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. “There’s a lot less stigma about reporting- in some ways that’s very encouraging,” Rodney Kumar, a spokesman for Kick It Out, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Sept 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Reports ofracist and homophobic abuse at football matches in Britainsoared to a record high in the last year, despite the disruptionto the season from the coronavirus pandemic.

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

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

“There’s a lot less stigma about reporting – in some waysthat’s very encouraging,” Rodney Kumar, a spokesman for Kick ItOut, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“But obviously it’s quite alarming that we have seen prettybig increases when it comes to all manners of discriminationaround football, which we do want to tackle.”

A 12-year-old boy was questioned by police in July afterWilfried Zaha, a striker for Crystal Palace and the Ivory Coast,was sent racist messages on Instagram, including a picture ofthe Klu Klux Klan.

Reports of all types of discrimination on social media fellalmost 24%. Kumar attributed this in part to faster action bycompanies to remove online abuse.

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

Kumar said about half the 117 incidents of homophobia atmatches were groups singing songs, while half were individualsshouting homophobic comments.

“When you hear those chants it can be quite depressing,”said Mike Homfray, the joint head of Everton LGBT+ supportersgroup Rainbow Toffees. “It’s too easy to be drawn into this sortof behaviour.”

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by ClaireCozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, thecharitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives ofpeople around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.Visit

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