- Thirty-five percent increase in abuses reported
- All complaints lead to an inquiry by England's Football Association
- Self-policing fans encouraged to be careful
(CNN)Could mobile technology turn the tide in the fight to eliminate racism from football?
Anti-racism organization Kick It Out (KIO) says there's been a 35% rise in fans reporting abusive behavior committed by other fans -- and that's largely due to a new phone app.
"The app has had a massive impact," KIO media and communications manager Richard Bates told CNN, noting that it accounted for 27% of all complaints.
"Self-policing is so important when it comes to stamping out racism in football. People are confident that their complaints will be taken seriously."
The 184 reported incidents recorded during the last five months of 2014 covered racial and religious discrimination, as well as sexual orientation, gender and disability offenses. The increase was measured against the same period the year before.
KIO's mobile phone application, which was released in 2013, encourages fans to report incidents anonymously by pressing a "Report It!" tab and entering the name of the football ground, positioning of the offender, and incident details.
Although contact details of the person reporting the incident are requested, KIO emphasized that the anonymity of the tool is key.
Every single objection logged by fans, either on the phone, via email, or on the app, triggers an investigation by the English Football Association (FA).
These include 73 incidents on social media (a 24% increase), which have so far led to 21 instances of the offender being identified, and at times having their accounts deleted.
The FA, which released its own witness complaint guidelines in 2013, encouraged fans to be proactive in flagging up incidents.
"Reporting abuse, whether witnessed or experienced, is an important part of the game's overall anti-discrimination work," said an FA spokesperson.
"There are clear ways for players and fans to do this, and these improved procedures should result in more reports in the future."
Bates admitted that it takes "bravery and courage" for fans to record photographic evidence on their phones, but pointed to the effect British expatriate Paul Nolan has had after he filmed Chelsea fans physically stopping a black man from getting on the Paris metro last month.
The amateur video obtained by The Guardian newspaper, and posted on its website, shows the man make multiple attempts to board a train at Richelieu-Drouot station, only to be pushed away each time by a group of passengers.
The Chelsea fans can then be heard chanting: "We're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it."
Chelsea were in France to play Paris Saint-Germain in a Champions League first-leg tie - Europe's premier football tournament -- which finished 1-1.
Five people have been identified and suspended by Chelsea, who have launched an ongoing investigation.
Later in February, KIO says it contacted the police over social media footage which showed men, thought to be West Ham fans, singing anti-Semitic songs on a train while traveling to Tottenham Hotspur's White Hart Lane ground ahead of an English Premier League game.
"Would we know that these Paris and London incidents had happened if they weren't on video?" Bates asks, adding that KIO is considering an option to upload video and still images of offenders directly to a complaint log on the app.
"If you have video footage and you can issue that retrospectively, it can make it easier to identify the perpetrators," he says.
In a report released in 2013 entitled "English Football's Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan", the FA explicitly talks about "raising confidence in the reporting and disciplinary process at grassroots level."
KIO's jurisdiction extends to all of English football, including the amateur ranks. It is one of the few independent bodies in world sports which solicits complaints from fans in order to weed out abusive behavior.
It also polices the actions of players, which has embroiled the organization in controversy of its own in the past.
In 2012, Rio Ferdinand refused to wear a KIO T-shirt before a match while playing for Manchester United. He was protesting a perceived lack of response by the governing bodies against John Terry after the Chelsea defender was accused of racially abusing his brother, Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers.
Terry was banned for four matches and fined £220,000 by the FA for his actions.