Racism arrests rising at London football grounds as campaigners call for action

Racism arrests at London club football grounds rose during the past six years, analysis of Met Police records shows.

Statistics acquired through Freedom of Information requests show both total and per-game arrests increased between 2015/16 and 2019/20.

Race incident arrests as a proportion of all arrests made at the grounds also increased, trebling from 6.2% in 2015 to 15.2% in 2020.

The data – which covers every London club to have played in the sixth tier or above in that period – lays bare a shocking increase in racial abuse at football grounds that authorities are struggling to contain.

A spokesperson for anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card said: “Although there has been an increase in race-related arrests, we would question how many of these arrests have led to prosecutions.

“All stadium staff, police and members of staff should be adequately trained to deal with racist incidents and football clubs need to make all fans aware of how to report racist incidents during football matches.”

Scotland Yard statistics indicate arrests made at football stadiums where there is a relevant racial element.

Incidents typically involve racial chanting or racially aggravated breaches of the Public Order Act 1986.

In the 2019/20 season, the total number of race arrests increased by nearly 25% compared to the previous campaign – from 33 to 41 – even though the introduction of lockdown restrictions from March 2020 meant 48 fewer matches were played in total.

“We believe the Met Police have started to effectively challenge racist behaviours within football stadiums but still have some way to go to ensure the stadiums are eradicated of racism and any form of discrimination,” the spokesperson added.

“They need to continue to make arrests where racist incidents occur and ensure they investigate the incidents appropriately, passing the information collected on for prosecution.”

A number of clubs – Barnet, Brentford, Bromley, Crystal Palace, Dagenham and Redbridge, Leyton Orient, Sutton United and Welling United – had consistently low numbers of race arrests at their grounds over the six years.

However, the figures of several others, all of whom play in the top two tiers of English football, significantly exceeded the average.

At Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur, a per club average of 22.6 race arrests were recorded between 2015 and 2021, compared to an average of 6.2 at the other 12 clubs analysed.

Furthermore, 57% of the 198 total race arrests made during the period occurred at the five clubs’ grounds.

The figures for West Ham United and Millwall somewhat contradict their reputations for poor supporter behaviour, with a combined total of just 23 race arrests recorded.

Data for the 2020/21 season has been omitted from the analysis because no matches were played at the clubs’ grounds due to Covid restrictions.

Featured image credit: markusunger via Flickr

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