Hate crimes on the rise in British football

Wednesday 27th November 2019 05:14 EST

Racist and abusive behaviour during football matches across England and Wales shows a major rise, according to a Home Office report. The National Police Chiefs' Council says the abhorrent behaviour is re-emerging in the game. Mansfield Town fans were reported for alleged hate crimes at football matches on six occasions over the last two seasons. Discrimination based on someone's race was the major reason for abuses. Burnley fans were responsible for 17 hate crime.

It covers matches in England and Wales in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Home Office data showed that hate crime incidents were reported at 193 matches across England and Wales in the 2018-19 season – up from 131 the previous year. But the government department said that some of the increase was likely due to improvements in recording.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the NPCC’s football policing lead, said: "Racism at football is a re-emerging problem, although I don't think it's ever truly gone away. It was controlled for a while and became socially unacceptable, but it is a real concern we have seen it creep back with such regularity into the national game. With reduced levels of policing on the ground, those committing this behaviour do not have the fear of a police officer arresting them.”

Kick It Out, which campaigns for equality and inclusion in the game, said the rise in discrimination in football is a challenge for all clubs at all levels across the country, adding: “To this extent, football mirrors society”. It said methods for reporting abusive behaviour at football matches were improving, which could explain a rise in the figures. It added: “We encourage clubs to continue building on the good work they have already done in creating effective reporting mechanisms.”

Several high-profile cases of reported hate crime at football matches have brought the problem to prominence in recent years. A Chelsea fan was reported for alleged racial abuse directed at Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling during a Premier League match in December last year.

Although the supporter was banned from matches for life in June, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge. Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop reported homophobic abuse being directed at him and a referee during his side's League One match against Tranmere in November this year. A spokesperson for Mansfield Town said: “The club condemns all forms of hate crime and does everything in its power to ensure it is not present at One Call Stadium.”

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