CNN  — 

There has been a “steep rise” in the levels of discrimination around English football, according to anti-racism group Kick It Out.

A new review released by Kick It Out Thursday says there was a 42% increase in reports of discrimination during the 2019/20 season at both a professional and grassroots level, from 313 to 446.

This includes a 53% increase in reports of racial abuse and a 95% rise in reports of abuse based on sexual orientation.

“This year the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd turned the world on its head. Football responded positively with clubs increasing their work in the community and with the players symbolizing the demand for greater equality of opportunity, by taking a knee,” said Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari.

“But beneath the surface, hate and division in society remains a lurking pernicious threat.

“Our reports indicate a steep rise in discrimination reports over the last two years, which reflect the hate crime statistics from the (UK’s) Home Office that show marked national increases over the last four years.”

TOPSHOT - A banner reading 'White Lives Matter Burnley' is towed by a plane above the stadium during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Burnley at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on June 22, 2020. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by SHAUN BOTTERILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
'White Lives Matter' banner over EPL game reflects divisions revealed in CNN's poll
02:32 - Source: CNN

‘Battleground of hate’

Bhandari added that social media can be a “battleground of hate,” particularly as fans are kept away from stadiums amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha spoke out about receiving abuse via social media, telling CNN Sport he is “scared” to open Instagram due to the number of racist messages he receives.

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The report did note, however, that Kick It Out has seen a reduction in complaints relating to abuse on social media, which is believed to reflect increased public awareness of reporting abuse directly to social media companies.

The organization separately ran a YouGov poll with 1,000 football fans, revealing that 39% of those surveyed had witnessed or heard an act of discrimination within the last year, while 14% had witnessed abuse within the last week.

In the same poll, 30% claimed to have witnessed racist comments or chants between January and December 2019, and 32% said they had witnessed homophobic comments during that period.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace looks on during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on July 16, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/Pool via Getty Images)
Black footballers too 'scared' to look at social media due to racist abuse, says Zaha
03:33 - Source: CNN

“As our YouGov poll also confirms, we know that reports to Kick It Out are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Bhandari.

“We only report what is reported to us. There is no single view across the whole of football. We need to aggregate the data across Kick It Out, clubs, law enforcement, governing bodies and others so that we have the complete picture to give us a greater chance of finding better solutions together.

“We urge those organizations to share data to create better insights.”

READ: Premier League start Zaha says he’s ‘scared’ to open Instagram due to racist abuse

The Black Lives Matter movement was supported prominently by the Premier League when matches resumed, with players, coaches and officials taking a knee before games and players wearing the words Black Lives Matter across the back of their jerseys.

However, there was resistance to this show of support from some fans.

A White Lives Matter banner was flown over the Etihad Stadium by a Burnley supporter before the Clarets faced Manchester City. It was widely condemned by the club and its players and management.

Football resumes in the UK on September 12 following a delayed start to the season due to last season’s late end date.