LONDON: Reports of discrimination across all levels of English football rose by 32% last season, according to a study released by equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out on Wednesday.
There were 422 reports of discrimination in 2018, up from 319 in the previous season, with racism remaining the most common form of discrimination in professional and grassroots football, constituting 65% of reports.
Reports of faith-based discrimination, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, increased by 75% from 36 to 63.
In the professional game alone, reports rose by 46%, while the organisation received 159 reports of discrimination via social media.
It is the seventh consecutive year reported incidents of discrimination within the English game have increased and Kick It Out chief executive Roisin Wood believes the governing bodies face a huge challenge to change this trend.
“Football reflects the society it is played and watched in and these figures are sadly not surprising,” Wood said in a statement.
“The fact that racist reports have risen by 43% clearly shows the massive work that all of football still needs to do to challenge this. In 2019 we need to ask the question what can we do better and what is not working?
“The sharp increase in faith-based based discrimination is also worrying and represents a challenge to us all – what are we doing to address this intolerance?”
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling suffered alleged racist abuse last season during his side’s defeat at Chelsea while a banana skin was thrown towards Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the London derby with Tottenham Hotspur.
Several leading Premier League players backed the Professional Footballers’ Association’s (PFA) campaign to boycott social media for 24 hours in a stand against online abuse.
Responding to the Kick It Out figures, the English Football Association said in a statement: “The FA has made huge strides in recent years to ensure that English football is a diverse and inclusive game.
“Most recently, the FA launched its ‘In Pursuit of Progress’ inclusion plan which has clear targets and ambitions to make sure our game better reflects modern society. This involves creating opportunities in football, both on and off the pitch, for people of all backgrounds.
“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 FA network or via our partners at Kick It Out.”