Manchester United fans have topped a list of the most football-related arrests that involve racism.
New data released following a freedom of information request shows that 27 people who were recorded as fans of the Premier League club were arrested between the 2014/15 and 2017/18 seasons.
Leeds United and Millwall were second with 15 arrests each, followed by Leicester with 14 arrests and Chelsea with 13.
According to Sky News, there were 107 arrests during the 2014/15 season, rising to 114 the following season. That figure dropped to 94 arrests in 2016/17 and down to just 75 arrests in 2017/18.
Other clubs with significant arrests included West Ham with 11 arrests, and Barnsley, Manchester City and Middlesbrough, with 10 arrests each.
‘No Place For Racism’
“There is no place for racism within our game, or in society as a whole, and we are committed to working to make football free from all forms of discrimination, whether through our own ‘All Red All Equal’ campaign or in support of Kick It Out and other organisations,” a spokesperson for Manchester United said.
“This statistic applies to 0.0004 per cent of our match-going fanbase. It does not reflect the views or behaviour of our fans as a whole in any way. We continue with monitoring and liaison with authorities to try and identify and eradicate any forms of discriminatory behaviour, and we take appropriate action if it occurs.”
Photo credit: Manchester United flag/ Pixabay
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Millwall said that the club has a “long and proud history of tackling all forms of discrimination” and that it offered all fans banned from the grounds due to discrimination a chance to attend its Fan Diversity Scheme.
“Education is key when it comes to dealing with people with unpalatable views and football clubs should be at the forefront of efforts to do so,” they added.
Leeds United said: “Racism will not be tolerated by our club or by the vast majority of our community and fan base.
“We have worked closely with West Yorkshire Police and the British Transport Police in recent years, in an effort to reduce the number of arrests involving our supporters at our games in general.”
They stressed that they have made “great steps” towards improving their strategy in tackling racism, working with the Football Association (FA), English Football League (EFL) and anti-racism in football campaign, Kick It Out to do so.
Reporting Abuse On The Rise
Kick It Out said that it had received 520 reports of discriminatory abuse from football fans during the 2017/18 season – an increase of 11 per cent on the figure from the previous season and the sixth year in a row complaints had risen. The organisation said that 53 per cent of those complaints were for racism.
The data, Kick It Out said, reflected a nationwide issue with racism and discrimination in football, rather than one that was confined to those top clubs previously mentioned.
How Do Human Rights Protect People Suffering Racist Abuse At Football Matches?
Article 14 of the Human Rights Convention states that all the rights and freedoms afforded to individuals must be protected and applied without discrimination.
Discrimination arises when someone is treated less fairly than another person in a similar situation without reasonable justification. It can also occur if you are disadvantaged by being treated the same as another person despite having different circumstances (for example if someone is pregnant or disabled).
Under the Human Rights Act, it is illegal to discriminate against someone on grounds including gender, race, colour, language, religion, national or social origin, property, place of birth, and more.
Photo credit: Football stadium/ Unsplash
Football clubs are not covered by the Human Rights Act because they are not public authorities, however the police (who are present at many football matches) are.
The Government also has a duty under the Human Rights Act to ensure that criminal and regulatory laws adequately protect people’s rights, and therefore must ensure that the system as a whole protects people against racist abuse.
Meanwhile, any abusive or threatening language directed against an individual who is classified under the Equality Act 2010 as having a protected characteristic – such as race – could be considered a hate crime.
The Equality Act doesn’t apply to individuals at football matches but it does apply to football clubs as service providers, so they have a responsibility to ensure football grounds are safe places for people of different races or other protected characteristics.
What Is A Hate Crime Defined As?
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the term ‘hate crime’ can be used to describe a “range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.”
These different aspects that make up a person’s identity are known as ‘protected characteristics’.
Photo credit: Footballers playing on a pitch/ Unsplash
Behaviours that constitute a hate crime under UK law include verbal abuse, threats, harassment, bullying, assault, intimidation and damage to property – like graffiti.
Incitement to hatred of individuals with protected characteristics is also a hate crime.
How Does UK Law Respond To Perpetrators Of Hate Crimes?
According to the Law Commission, the law responds to hate crime in the following ways:
- Additional ‘aggravated’ offences with longer sentences in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 if an offender demonstrated hostility or was motivated by hostility based on race or religion.
- Prohibiting conduct that is likely to stir up hatred on grounds of race, or intended to do so on grounds of religion or sexual orientation in the Public Order Act 1986.
- Enhanced sentencing under sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 if hostility is motivated by any of the five protected characteristics.
- The provision of Sentencing guidelines. Section 125(1) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 requires that a sentencing judge must follow any sentencing guideline which is relevant to their case. This includes, for example, consideration of whether the offence was motivated by racial or religious hostility, or if it was motivated by or demonstrated hostility towards the victim based on one or more characteristics such as the victims’ age, sex, gender identity (or presumed gender identity), disability (or presumed disability) or sexual orientation.
It is scheduled to start consulting on whether hate crime legislation should be extended this year.
Do Football Clubs Have Their Own Initiatives To Tackle Racial Abuse?
The FA has strict guidelines on how to deal with any abusive incidents that happen within professional football grounds in the UK and a reporting procedure.
The association also has a number of initiatives aimed at making football more inclusive. This includes a drive for more BAME coaches and members of football boards, as well as encouraging women to take up key positions at club management level.
Third party organisation Kick It Out has been active for more than 20 years.
Working in partnership with the 92 professional clubs in the Premier League and EFL, grassroots and community clubs across the country and within the education sector, its aim is to make football more inclusive. It receives and deals with reports of discrimination directly too.