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Racism in English football: as ever thriving and set to stay

Since 2012, 350 racist incidents have been reported in the English game . The attacks are taking place in the stands, on the way to matches and even on social networks.


Racismo en el fútbol foto de Brian Minkoff
Photo from Brian Minkoff

Juanjo Andrés Cuervo


This season’s toll runs at 117 racist incidents and 32 acts of anti-Semitic violence. In addition, there have been 15 reports of homophobic discrimination and 13 cases of sexual assault.

Recently, a group of Chelsea hooligans mounted a verbal attack whilst on a train against Jewish Spurs fans and Asian women who they poured scorn upon ironically for not wearing burkas.

Racismo en el fútbol foto de

Given the unravelling situation, an Afro-Caribbean passenger was forced to leave the train.

To expand upon such cases of anti-Semitism, there was also a case of a group of West Ham fans screaming insults at Jews.

On this occasion the fans went so far as to deliver a Nazi salute whilst chanting songs which made reference to Hitler.

However, it is not only the fans who are the subjects of racism in the world of football.

Liverpool player Mario Balotelli who is of Ghanaian origins was insulted on the social networks. A Manchester United fan wrote on Twitter: “J** Mario, f** n** ‘F** you Mario you f** n**. Go eat some bananas and get Ebola you dirty monkey.”

Following in this vein, a Sunderland fan made a monkey gesture in the stands whilst Lukaku, a player of African descent, celebrated a goal.

Indeed, former English football coach Malky Mackay was guilty of text messages including terms such as “fat Jew”, “chink” and other words of a homophobic or sexist nature.

And such abuse is not just confined to the Premier League. During one particular match, fans of Millwall (in the lower Championship League) hurled racist insults at El Hadji Diouf, a Senegalese player.

As a result of the incident one of the fans was arrested and banned from entering a football stadium for five years in addition to having to pay a fine of over £500.

Leaving fans aside, there have also been reports of racist behaviour in football teams themselves. At one football match, a group of players from Pye Green Towers FC, an amateur team , chanted racist songs in the changing rooms.

Racismo en el fútbol foto de CFC Unofficial
Photo CFC Unofficial

The referee on this occasion was black and there was no avoiding the inevitable: the team was expelled from the West Midlands Christian League.

In Paris, and to chants of ‘we’re racist and that’s the way we like it’ a group of Chelsea hooligans stopped a black French passenger from boarding a train.

Since then, the victim of the incident, Souleymane Sylla, insists he is ‘totally taken aback’ and thinks ‘about the incident every hour,’ with the result that he even needs therapy because of it.

‘The Chelsea supporters have destroyed me. When I go to see my therapist I feel like I’m being followed”. I still hear the voices of those people who pushed me because of the colour of my skin’.

Racismo en el fútbol foto de Stuart Grout
Photo de Stuart Grout

These are just some of the cases of racism which are taking place in the English game .

As for now, the number of reports have increased from 136 to 184 compared with last season: a figure which does not represent the true number according to Roisin Wood, the director of Kick It Out. “The number of complaints made this season barely scratch the surface of a widespread problem”, she asserts.


Fortunately, there is an organisation which tackles the problem of inequality in the game , Kick It Out, and it has carried out a poll on more than 200 footballers across the four English football divisions.

According to the figures more than 50% insist they have heard racist insults hurled in a football stadium. Moreover, 25% acknowledge they have been subject to abuse of this type at football meets.

Overall, 20% state they have been witness to racism in the dressing rooms and during training.

And with regards to the above accounts, more than 50% of the players believe the problem exists due to the lack of black coaches or those belonging to ethnic minorities in the game .

The fact of the matter is there is only one black coach in the Premier League – Chris Ramsey of Queens Park Rangers – who insists ‘racism in football has been parked not eliminated.’

Paul Mortimer, formerly of Charlton FC and who played during the eighties and nineties took part in the poll carried out by Kick It Out.

According to his accounts, during this period, fruit used to be sold outside stadiums so fans could hurl it players during the match.

Moreover, he admits he suffered abuse at the hands of his fellow players: from the opposition but also from his own team mates.

Racismo en el fútbolAccording to an analyses of figures collected during the last 13 years in the Premier League, Chelsea with 28 arrests emerges as the team with the most fans arrested for issuing racist chants.

Continuing with the subject of racism, one of London’s strongest teams, Arsenal, comes out at the bottom of the list for arrests for racist behaviour, with 13.

So far as the most number of arrests in a single season is concerned, West Ham tops the bill with 9.

Racismo en el fútbol 2 foto de

Racism at children’s football matches

According to statistics provided by 24 police forces in England ( less than half the total number in the country ), since 2012 there have been 350 racist incidents in the game.

This is the figure for the total number of all attacks across all the leagues from the Premiership to grass-roots youth football.

For instance, in Manchester 46 incidents were recorded.

In some, phrases were heard such as: “that’s a f** black man’s job, you f** n**’ whilst the man to whom it was directed was cleaning toilets in a stadium and ‘I’ll do you, I’m gonna wait for you outside, I’m going to do you, you f**n**” during a children’s football match.

In fact, Gavin Sutherland, the coordinator for the charity ‘Show Racism The Red Card’ stated that ‘although football clubs have taken strong action, racism is a real problem within society.’

For him, ‘especially worrying are the incidents of racist abuse at youth team football matches.’

Indeed, in these children’s categories Hertfordshire Police reported 11 incidents of racism. And staying with this subject, Surrey police disclosed that a referee was the victim of racist insults whilst refereeing a children’s match.

Restriction on immigrants

The FA has put forward a proposal which is aimed at curbing the number of foreign nationals playing in the English leagues. This initiative, approved by the Home office, will come into force on the 1st of May.

One of the proposals consists in only allowing the very best foreign non-EU players to come and play in the league. This means that only those players who play for one of the fifty top national sides in the world will apply for a possible work permit.

This criterion is based on FIFA’s classification and the likelihood of being granted a licence or permit will depend on the position of each country on this table.

Racismo en el fútbol 3For example, a player who plays for one of the 10 best national sides will have to play just 30% of his games in the past 24 months for one of his country’s teams.

Whereas players who play for a national side which is ranked between 31st and 50th position on FIFA’s table will have to play at least 75% of their matches for a team in their own country.

Racismo en el fútbol foto de Ben Sutherland
Photo Ben Sutherland

In statistical terms, this would mean that, were the system to be in place now, 33% of foreign players who hail from outside the EU would have to leave English football as a result of this stipulation.

On the subject of this stipulation, the president of the FA, Greg Dyke, confirms “my fear is the Premier League [will] end.. up owned by foreigners, managed by foreigners and played by foreigners.”


(Translated by Nigel Conibear – Email:



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