Our latest annual report for the 2019/20 season shows shocking increases in the levels of race hate and homophobic abuse, around football matches and across social media – in spite of the season being put on hold for several months due to Covid-19.

Our report details discriminatory related abuse received during the 2019/20 season, at both professional and grassroots levels.

Overall, in the professional game we saw a 42% increase in reports of discrimination in total, up from 313 to 446. There was also a 53% increase in reported racial abuse in the professional game between this season and last, up from 184 to 282. Even more alarmingly, we received 117 reports of abuse based on sexual orientation compared to 60 last season – up by 95%.

At grassroots level there were 94 reports this season compared to 113 last year, a fall of 14%. However, all grassroots matches from March 2020 onwards were cancelled due to Covid-19. Comparing this season to the equivalent period last season, there was an 11% increase in reports.

There were also major changes in how individuals chose to report incidents of discrimination to us. At the professional game, phone reports plummeted by over 70%, while reports via social media leapt by 229%.

We experienced a reduction in the number of complaints direct to us in terms of abuse on social media. We believe that this reflects greater public awareness of mechanisms to report directly to social media companies. There is some evidence to suggest that users are now reporting to us when they have received unsatisfactory responses from initial complaints to social media companies directly. Other data, including the findings of our YouGov poll and the increased investment by social media in human and AI driven content moderation, indicate that hate on social media continues to rise significantly.

Alongside these findings, we launched a YouGov poll with over 1,000 football fans, to gain a better understanding of discrimination incidents across the game.

The results showed that 39% of fans surveyed had witnessed or heard an act of discrimination with the last year and 14% of people had witnessed abuse within the last week alone.

Looking at the football season between January 2019 – December 2019, 30% said they’d witnessed racist comments or chants at a football match and a staggering 71% of those questioned also said they had witnessed racist comments on social media directed at a footballer. A further 51% of fans had also witnessed racism directed at a fan of a different team to theirs on social media.

With the issue of homophobia, the findings were equally shocking. 32% of fans said they’d witnessed homophobic comments at a football match in the last season and of these 41% of respondents have witnessed homophobic abuse aimed a footballer on social media.

Although around 84% of respondents said they’d be able to recognise verbal discriminatory behaviour at a game directed at a footballer, match official, team’s coaching staff or fan who supports the same team or a different team to them, a large proportion of people (22%) say they are unlikely to report any act of discrimination in the future.

And around half of those questioned also said it was unlikely they’d report racist or homophobic abuse directed at players, coaches or match officials at a football game.

The full breakdown of our annual report statistics can be viewed here.

The full breakdown of our YouGov poll can be viewed here.