Reports of discrimination in English professional and amateur football have increased, anti-discrimination group Kick It Out revealed on Tuesday.
The organisation said it received 184 reports of discrimination between August and December 28 last year, compared to 136 for the same period during the 2013-14 season.
Racism (117) and anti-Semitic (32) abuse were the most common forms of discrimination reported, but the group said the latest figures could represent only the tip of the iceberg.
“The reality is the level of complaints submitted to us this season, despite showing a leap from 136 to 184 when compared to the midway point of the 2013-14 campaign, barely scratch the surface of a widespread problem,” Kick it Out director Roisin Wood wrote in The Guardian newspaper.
Kick It Out also logged 13 reports of sexism, up from two last season, and 15 reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation, compared to five the previous years.
Meanwhile, the Football Association reported a 70 percent increase in reports of discriminatory behaviour.
But the organisation’s head of judicial services, Mark Ives, believes the statistics reflect growing public confidence about reporting abuse, rather than an increase in incidents of discrimination.
“It may seem strange to say that it is good to see cases increase from 477 last year at grassroots level to probably 800 this year, but we believe anecdotally the problem itself is not increasing, and that this represents people feeling more confident about reporting abuse,” he said.
The statistics have emerged at a time of heightened sensitivity regarding discrimination in the English game, with British police investigating three separate reports of racist behaviour by supporters of Chelsea.
Claims have also emerged that a group of West Ham United fans on a London Underground train sang anti-Semitic songs about rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who have historic links to the Jewish community. – Agence France-Presse