Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out received a 65.1 per cent rise in reports of discriminatory behaviour during the 2022-23 season – with reports of sexism and misogyny up 400 per cent.
Figures released by the organisation show 1,007 reports were made during the campaign from the grassroots and professional games and across social media, which Kick It Out puts down in part to an “increased awareness” of reporting procedures and fans becoming “less tolerant” of discriminatory behaviour.
Reports of online abuse rose by 279 per cent, with the organisation receiving 207 more reports related to online forums and social media than in the previous 12 months.
Racism was the most common form of discrimination, accounting for just under half (49.3 per cent) of all reports, while reports related to sexism and misogyny represented the largest rise in a specific discrimination type – up from 16 to 80.
Faith-based discrimination fell slightly due to a 29.5 per cent drop in the number of reports received of an antisemitic nature, but Islamophobia (300 per cent) and sectarian chanting in the professional game (15.8 per cent) were both up.
Discrimination reports in the professional game rose by 27.4 per cent to 484, which represents those received from the Premier League, English Football League and National League, domestic cups, European and international competition, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship.
A statement from Kick It Out referred to the rise in reports as a “significant leap” that “highlights that discrimination is still a serious issue within the game”.
It added: “The record figures could also be attributed to an increased awareness of reporting procedures and fans becoming less tolerant of discriminatory behaviour.”
Racism continued to account for more than half of grassroots reports (50.8 per cent) and 43.4 per cent of overall grassroots incidents received were from under-18s or younger age-group games.
“Research conducted by Kick It Out suggests these numbers are the tip of the iceberg with many incidents still not reported,” the statement added.
Social media abuse comprised a much larger proportion of overall reports compared to previous years, making up 28 per cent of all reports received, up from 12.1 per cent last year.
Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett said: “The significant increase in reports across the game is alarming and strengthens our resolve to tackle discrimination in all areas of football.
“Behind each of these statistics is somebody who has sadly experienced discrimination, and supporting the victims of abuse remains Kick It Out’s utmost priority.
“While we continue to work tirelessly to Kick It Out, we call upon fans, clubs, leagues and governing bodies to help us with this cause, and we are encouraged that the number of reports per incident continues to increase, suggesting that people are becoming less tolerant of discriminatory behaviour and more likely to report abuse when they see it.
“Our figures provide a snapshot of what is happening across the game, but we still don’t know the full picture because clubs, leagues and governing bodies aren’t currently mandated to share their reporting data.
“This underscores why football urgently needs a centralised reporting mechanism to collate and monitor reports. Only once that happens can we understand the full extent of the problem within football and tackle it with the full force of the sport.”
On Wednesday morning, Fulham confirmed the club had been notified by the Metropolitan Police that a supporter had been found guilty of engaging in homophobic chanting during the Premier League fixture at Chelsea on February 2.
A 25-year-old man pleaded guilty to an aggravated Public Order Act Offence at Westminster Magistrates Court. He received a fine and a three-year football banning order.
A club statement read: “Fulham condemns homophobic, hateful or discriminatory chanting of any nature.
“Fulham is dedicated to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for all those connected to the club, including staff, players, supporters and members of the local community.
“Discrimination, harassment or abuse of any kind has no place at Fulham and we will continue to support equality, diversity and inclusion among all those associated with the club.”