One in 10 football fixtures in the 2019-20 season had an incident of hate crime in England and Wales, data gathered by the police, the FA and anti-discrimination campaigners has revealed.
There were verified hate crime incidents reported at 287 matches in the season, out of a total of 2,663 fixtures, a report published by the Home Office shows. The report said that 75% of the matches – 214 or 8% of all fixtures – reported hate crime incidents related to race, the figures show.
The Home Office data for the first time includes verified incidents of hate crime that were related to a particular fixture and were reported to the UK Football Policing Unit by anti-discrimination body Kick It Out and the Football Association.
The data separately reveals that the number of arrests for racist or indecent chanting more than doubled from 2018-19 to 2019-20 – from 14 to 35 – even though 319 matches were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and a further 227 were played behind closed doors.
The UK’s football policing lead, Mark Roberts, the deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire police, described the hate crime data as “incredibly concerning”.
“We want to see this behaviour eradicated from football,” he said. “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 and ensure a safe and friendly space for everyone to support and enjoy football.”
Sanjay Bhandari, chair of Kick it Out, said: “We need to mobilise everyone to stand against the rise in hate. Kick It Out will play its part with campaigning, education and talent programmes that diversify the face of football. But this is everyone’s responsibility. We all need to do more and we all need to take a stand against discrimination.”
The Home Office data also looked at football banning orders and other football-related arrests. It reported there were 1,089 football-related arrests in 2019-20, a decrease of 21% compared with 2018-19, but again more than 500 matches were either cancelled or played behind closed doors.
Banning orders, issued after a conviction for a football-related offence, prevent an individual attending regulated matches in the UK.
The number in force as of 1 August this year was 1,621, a drop of 8% compared with the same date in 2019. The report showed 360 new banning orders were issued in 2019-20, down 34% compared with 2018-19.
Leeds were the club with the highest number of arrests at 52, followed by Birmingham, with 49, and Bolton, with 45.
Stoke City supporters had the most football banning orders in force during 2019-20 for the first time since records began in 2015 with 52, while Mansfield and Bolton were the clubs whose supporters were issued the most new banning orders in the season – 34 and 24 respectively.
In 2019-20 there were 120 reported incidents of a member of stadium staff being assaulted, only five fewer than in 2018-19 despite the restrictions on fans attending.
Similarly, 46 incidents of assaults on police officers were reported in 2019-20, compared with 57 in 2018-19.
A Home Office spokesperson added: “The increase shown in these statistics is partly down to better recording and awareness, but we have no complacency in stamping out this evil from the game. We are bringing forward legislation to force social media companies to remove racist, homophobic and antisemitic abuse and we are working closer than ever before with the football authorities to bring perpetrators to justice.”