After a year of race rows plaguing English football, more Britons think racism is widespread in the national game and a majority feel it will be impossible to eradicate it completely, according to a poll.
In the wake of incidents involving Chelsea's John Terry, Liverpool's Luis Suarez and now alleged comments by referee Mark Clattenburg, the survey revealed four out of 10 (40%) respondents agreed that racism is widespread in English football, an increase on 31% in June 2012.
The majority of people (57%) said it would be impossible to eliminate racism from football but nearly two-thirds (62%) said harsher penalties for racist behaviour would reduce the number of racist incidents, according to the ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror.
And after Chelsea accused Clattenburg of using "inappropriate language" towards John Obi Mikel during last weekend's crunch match against Manchester United, nearly two thirds (62%) said referees' conversations with players on the pitch should be recorded.
Among the respondents who identified themselves as having an interest in football, the figure jumped to 75%. More than half of those asked (55%) also thought police were right to launch an investigation into the allegations against Clattenburg, which the referee strenuously denies. But less than a quarter (23%) thought referees get the respect they deserve from players, the survey showed.
Less than a fifth of respondents (18%) thought the behaviour of professional footballers had improved over the last ten years and there was support for "sin bins", with 64% saying they would favour players to be forced to sit out a period of a match if they behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner. Nearly half (46%) of those with an interest in football said there had been an increase in the number of racist incidents in the last five years, the poll showed.
Over a quarter (28%) thought the Football Association (FA) is not taking the issue of racism seriously enough and over half (51%) thought the penalties for racist language in football were not severe enough. While 41% thought the FA was taking racism seriously enough, less than a third of respondents (29%) said they were satisfied with the way the FA governs professional football in England, while 33% were dissatisfied.
Meanwhile, as the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign has come under fire from high-profile players such as Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand, 32% said they thought the campaign had been ineffective, while 22% said it had been effective.
But there is a consensus that English football is not as racist as football in other countries - over half (52%) disagree with the statement that racism is more widespread in English football than in other European countries, rising to 70% among those interested in the sport.
ComRes interviewed 2,022 British adults online from October 31 to November 1 and 815 respondents described themselves as having a great deal or a fair amount of interest in football.