Kick It Out blames social media and society for football’s discrimination spike

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Incidents of football-related homophobia and racism are becoming “more virulent and targeted” on social media, Kick It Out chief executive Roisin Wood has warned.

Speaking to Press Association Sport on the day the equality and inclusion charity released figures showing a rise in reports of discrimination in football, Wood said she was particularly concerned about the grassroots game and social media.

In its mid-season report, which it does not usually release, Kick It Out said it had received more than 300 reports relating to 282 cases of discriminatory abuse by the end of 2017, a 59 per cent leap from last season, when there were 177 incidents.

The increase was even worse in the professional and semi-professional game, with 131 of those incidents coming from the National League and above – a 75 per cent increase on last season.

More than half of those incidents were for racism, with one in five related to homophobia and one in 10 being antisemitic.

Wood said the charity, which is 25 years old, acknowledged fans were more aware of discrimination now and more confident about reporting it. For example, many reports came via Kick It Out’s confidential app.

But this season’s spike still came as “a shock and was really quite worrying”, Wood said.

“I am often asked if these increases are because of more awareness about discrimination or because of more discrimination – I would say this is a bit of both,” she said.

“We know how far football has come but we also know how much more there is to be done. Recent research has found that hate crimes are on the up. If that is happening in society, it will be reflected in football.”

Kick It Out also believes incidents of Islamophobia and sexism are under-reported and is particularly concerned about grassroots football, where people are likely to have less confidence about reporting discrimination.

But the main growth area for discrimination is social media, where two in five reported incidents occur.

“We’ve been worried about this for a few years now and ran a ‘Click It Out’ campaign to try to tackle it,” said Wood.

“I think it’s become more virulent and targeted but we are working with Facebook and Twitter to address this and they do deal with offensive material when it is flagged up.”

Kick It Out’s chairman Lord Ouseley described the mid-season statistics as a “wake-up call to everyone in the sport” and said they came against a “backdrop of rising hatred in our society”.

The Premier League issued a statement which read: “THe Premier League encourages everyone involved in the game to come forward and report any unacceptable language or behaviour they are subject to or witness.

“We have supported Kick It Out in the development of their reporting app – which provides fans with a simple, swift and discreet way to raise any concerns – and we also work with clubs and their stewarding operations to ensure that complaints are given high priority.

“We will continue to work with KIO, and other partners, to promote equality and inclusion across the sport.”

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