Arrests for racist chanting across England and Wales’s top five football leagues rose sharply last season – despite many games being played behind closed doors.
It has emerged that arrests made last season for racist or indecent chanting reached their highest level in over five years.
A worrying 150% increase has been revealed in new Home Office figures, despite more than 500 matches being cancelled or played without fans due to the pandemic.
Last season 35 arrests were made for racist or indecent chanting, up from 14 the previous season.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Hate crime has no place in football or anywhere else and we must all come together to confront it.
“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.”
The statistics show a general decline in football hooliganism and violence but a worrying trend of worsening hate crime in the game.
Of the 35 arrests made for racist & indecent chanting, Manchester City were the club with the highest number of arrests (six), followed by Cardiff City (five) and Stoke City (three).
The report also showed that more than a third of all arrests for racism were for fans of Premier League clubs, while fans of Championship clubs made up almost one fifth.
The Home Office report also logged every hate crime incident reported to the UK Football Policing Unit.
Despite the number of reported incidents at matches falling for virtually every offence when compared with the previous season, incidents of hate crime continued to rise.
However it is the first time figures include online incidents connected to particular fixtures, and they are therefore not directly comparable to previous data.
Despite this, the UK’s football policing lead, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, described the hate crime data as “incredibly concerning”.
He added: “We are 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.”
The Home Office cited better recording and awareness as factors driving the worrying trend but acknowledged that more needed to be done to stamp out online abuse and that they would continue to work with football authorities to eradicate the problem.
Incidents of hate crime connected to 287 football matches in England and Wales were reported in 2019-20, almost one in every 10 games over the season.
The figures paint a disturbing picture of racism being prevalent in British football when combined with high profile incidents last season including the racist abuse of Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and Manchester City and England winger Raheem Sterling.
Rob Avey, a lifelong Chelsea fan and season ticket holder said social media has given some fans a new and more convenient platform to vent abuse.
He explained: “If you engage in any sort of racism or hooliganism at games now, you’re an idiot. You’ve got cameras and stuff in stadiums so they can zoom in on any given fan.
“But it’s so easy for someone on social media to say something anonymously and then it just gathers pace.”
When asked about fans being racist at games, Avey pointed to the way in which fans stamp out offensive chanting.
He said: “I think its self-policed more now. It would only take one person to say shut up to a fan being racist and then more people would back them. I don’t think it would go unaccounted for.”
Featured image credit: Korean Baller via YouTube