Documents to download

In recent months, several football matches have been disrupted by racist incidents. This included a Euro 2020 qualifying match between Bulgaria and England in October 2019, which had to be stopped twice due to racist chanting aimed at some England players. Bulgaria were already serving a partial stadium ban after some of their fans had been found guilty of racism previously. In the same month, an FA Cup fourth qualifying round match between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town was abandoned after the home team walked off the pitch, alleging racist abuse towards their players.

Recent data provided by the Home Office and Kick It Out suggests that the number of racist incidents in the sport is increasing. However, this has been attributed in part to improvements in reporting such occurrences.

Existing legislation covers some incidents of racism in football in the United Kingdom. For example, under the Public Order Act 1986 it is an offence to use abusive, insulting, or threatening words or behaviour that intends to or causes another person alarm, distress, or harassment. In addition, the Football Spectators Act 1989 provides that certain offences be accompanied by a football banning order. This has been used to prevent violence or disorder in and around football stadiums.

The footballing authorities have also introduced measures to combat racism in football. This includes a three-step protocol to tackle discrimination at football matches, which can lead to referees abandoning the matches. More recently, the FA has introduced a ten-match suspension for coaches and players found guilty of discriminatory behaviour.

Football clubs have also acted to tackle discriminatory behaviour from their own supporters. This has ranged from stadium bans to starting their own education schemes. For example, in January 2019, Chelsea started the ‘Say No to Anti-Semitism’ scheme, seeking to raise awareness of antisemitism and its impact on the Jewish community and wider society. It also provides one-to-one education courses to supporters.

Despite the measures in place, those involved in the sport have called on footballing authorities to do more. In October 2019, Raheem Sterling, who was one of the English players racially abused in Bulgaria, signed a manifesto calling for “fundamental changes” in how football tackles racism. The manifesto called for further sanctions for racism, beginning with a minimum partial stadium closure rising to expulsion from a competition for repeat offences or for mass discriminatory chanting.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)

    In recent years, there has been a fall in levels of trust and confidence in policing. This followed a series of high-profile scandals, some of which involved serious offences committed by serving police officers. This briefing explores the role of media coverage in changing public perceptions of policing and also reports on calls by various parties to improve the current levels of confidence.

    Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)
  • Cyclists and the law

    Currently, cyclists who ride dangerously or carelessly can be prosecuted for various offences, including those contained in the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended). In 2024, the government said it was introducing a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling. This briefing summarises the existing laws and proposals for creating new offences ahead of a forthcoming debate in the House of Lords.

    Cyclists and the law
  • Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill: HL Bill 73 of 2023–24

    The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 13 May 2024. The bill seeks to fulfil the commitment made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on 10 January 2023 to quash the convictions of those convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal. It would extend and apply to England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. Its provisions would come into force at royal assent. During committee stage the bill was extended to Northern Ireland. There have also been calls for it to be extended to Scotland. The bill has received cross-party support but is controversial as the quashing of convictions by Parliament is unprecedented. In addition, concerns about the scope of the bill have been raised. The bill would not include individuals whose convictions were previously upheld by the Court of Appeal.

    Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill: HL Bill 73 of 2023–24