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Majority of fans want “tough sanctions” on discrimination and clearer ways to report abuse

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Football fans across the country have called for tough and consistent action to be taken against perpetrators found guilty of discrimination, according to a major consultation conducted by Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion campaign.

More than 5,000 fans completed the ‘Tackling Discrimination’ survey, carried out by Populus and supported by the Football Supporters’ Federation, Supporters Direct, Level Playing Field and the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, answering a series of questions to help Kick It Out form a blueprint for tackling discrimination in future years.

The survey revealed many fans were unclear about how to report incidents of discrimination and were scared of being singled out if they were seen to take action. Fans also called for reporting methods to be made clearer and for more options to be provided.

New app

This has prompted Kick It Out to develop a new app, free to all fans on iPhone and Android devices, which allows discreet reporting of discrimination seen, heard or experienced, and an online “Football Fans’ Guide to Reporting Abuse and Discrimination” to encourage the reporting of incidents. Both will be available for use at the start of the 2013/14 season.

Roisin Wood, Director of Kick It Out, said: “The majority of football fans have told Kick It Out they want action to get rid of discrimination at all levels of the game. These new reporting tools will allow fans to help clubs and the relevant authorities target instances of discriminatory behaviour more consistently while maintaining healthy and vocal rivalries.

“Over the past 20 years, the campaign has stayed at the forefront of tackling discrimination with innovative campaigns and we have made real progress, but there is still plenty to do. This will go some way in helping responsible fans work with us to make further progress.

“Kick It Out will continue to work with clubs, managers, players, fans’ organisations and the governing bodies to help actively promote all reporting procedures.”

Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of the Football Supporters’ Federation, commented: “The results of the fan consultation support our view that abusive and discriminatory behaviour at grounds is totally unacceptable. It is important that the responsible majority of fans have the right help and support to report, and the confidence that something will be done if they do.

“These incidents when the behaviour of the minority crosses over the line are rare, but we’re encouraging all football fans to download the free app and read the reporting guide, so if they are ever in that situation, they are clear on what to do.”

5,463 took part in the Tackling Discrimination survey which found:

Fans feel that progress has been made but there is still work to do in tackling discrimination and increasing diversity in football:

  • The huge majority of football fans, from all backgrounds, think that tackling racism, homophobic abuse and abuse towards disabled people are important issues in football (93% of fans say it is important to do more to tackle racism, 84% to tackle homophobia and 89% to tackle abuse towards disabled people).
  • The majority of fans see discrimination and abuse as unacceptable in the modern game (92% racism, 87% homophobia, 84% sexist, 92% abuse of disability) suggesting that it is an irresponsible minority who act in this way.
  • The vast majority of fans know that Kick It Out is football’s equality and inclusion campaign and most (62%) believe it has made a difference in its role.
  • While the majority of fans (92%) feel that progress has been made and that discrimination in football has reduced over the past 20 years (51%), three quarters of fans (75%) say that discriminatory language and behaviour and abusive language and behaviour are still a problem in football in the UK.
  • When asked if they had ever witnessed discrimination when attending matches, three in ten fans have witnessed racist (31%) or homophobic (33%) chanting aimed at other fans and nearly half have heard racist (44%) or homophobic (45%) abuse aimed at officials or players. Encouragingly, nearly half (47%) of all fans had never heard any discriminatory chanting aimed at other fans and a third (33%) had never heard any directed at match officials or players.

Fans want a lot more to be done to tackle discrimination:

  • The majority of fans want more to be done to fans caught acting in a discriminatory way, with 90% supporting ejection from grounds, 82% supporting season long bans, 67% supporting compulsory education courses from the club and 63% supporting life bans from the ground.
  • Fans see season long bans (81%), ejection from grounds (89%), life bans (75%), better education and rehabilitation (57%) and tougher laws to punish fans outside grounds (70%) as the most effective measures to tackle discrimination.
  • The vast majority of fans (88%) think there need to be tough penalties for players who act in a discriminatory way.
  • Fans say that more needs to be done by authorities, players and fans themselves to stamp out abusive behaviour by players (80%) and fans (79%) on social media.

Fans take responsibility to act – and want more help in reporting:

  • Fans do believe they have to self-police the right behaviour, with support from clubs. However, despite most fans feeling that clubs (93%), stewards (90%) and fans themselves (88%) are the most responsible for the regulation of behaviour in grounds, it is felt that all groups have a responsibility to act.
  • There is also a job to do in showing fans how to report this behaviour. Only half of fans (47%) know about the various ways to report abusive or discriminatory behaviour and a third of fans (39%) believe that more should be done to promote how to do this.
  • Popular measures to help effectively report and stop abusive behaviour in grounds were: more consistent ejection of abusive fans (74%); better stewarding (73%); better education of fans (40%); a reporting app for phones (40%) and a text reporting service (50%).

The Football Fans’ Guide to Reporting Abuse and Discrimination details all possible ways for fans to report discrimination. As well as the new app, it covers reporting through the British Transport Police, stewards or text reporting facilities at the ground, hotlines to The Football Association and Kick It Out, and also advises supporters on what to do if they spot discrimination related to football on social media.

The new app, which was developed by Kick It Out and Make Positive, a leading cloud technology firm, and supported by the Salesforce Foundation, Sherry Design and Davenport Lyons, allows fans to report incidents both online and offline depending on the availability of a mobile phone signal. It will combat the fear that some fans expressed about being singled out if they are seen standing up to discrimination.

The anonymity of those fans making reports is protected. Fans can choose to be kept up-to-date with the progress of their report by providing contact details confidentially, or can remain anonymous. All reports are forwarded to the club concerned, through the relevant club representative, and a copy is forwarded to The FA.

Kick It Out is also working with the PFA and Make Positive on development of a reporting app for use by players, to help them report discrimination more easily.

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this story.

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Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball