According to a new survey by Kick It Out and Forza Football, half of the football supporters in the UK have witnessed racism while watching matches, but only 40% know how to report such incidents.
"There’s a long history of racism in football, dating back to the 19th century when Arthur Wharton became the first professional black footballer in England," says business psychologist Professor Binna Kandola OBE. "Black players were regularly abused, not only by opponents and fans but by their own teammates and coaches. Today, people know that explicit racial prejudice is less likely to be tolerated. As a result, racial prejudice has mutated into something called ‘modern racism’, which is far more indirect and less obvious than the examples given above."
For some fans, the line as to what constitutes reportable abuse is 'less clear', says Kandola, who is considered an expert in unconscious bias. "It's easier to dismiss a victim’s complaints as 'whingeing'. In an analysis of the amateur game, district associations would dismiss claims of racism made by black players, as an attempt to 'play the race card'."
According to the FA's website, the range of methods that players, officials, and fans can report discrimination include speaking to the referee, speaking to a nearby steward, emailing The FAor using Kick It Out's online reporting form where reports can be made anonymously.
"Unfortunately, whilst the subtle forms of discrimination slip under the net of legal definition, the impact on the victim is as great, if not greater, than blatant discrimination," adds Kandola. "Modern racism is not just an issue for football clubs, but for all organisations. The first step in tackling it, though, is to accept that it exists."