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Abuse at football grounds revealed

An investigation of behaviour at English football grounds found racist, homophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic abuse, according to a TV documentary.

A police chief with a key role in supervising the sport told Channel 4's Dispatches programme that there is a problem with the under-reporting of racist incidents.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, national lead on football policing, said: "I think it's a more common problem, because of under-reporting, than the statistics would indicate....I think there's potentially under-reporting by police officers and by clubs."

The programme found examples of different forms of abuse at matches, and also hears from a well-respected former Premier League and Championship footballer who was racially abused throughout his career.

Jason Roberts tells how he was racially abused as a professional footballer between 1997 and this year while playing for a number of top clubs.

He says: "I've heard it on Sundays as a young man, I've heard it non-league, I've heard it in Division 2, Division 1, Championship and I've heard it in the Premier League. I've had it from people in the street, I've had it from team mates, I've had it from managers, I've had it from coaches, I've had it from crowds.

"I have had monkey chants in, in the last two, three years," he adds.

"Well I mean it's - the frustration is that we all know it's happening, we all know where it's happening. I can tell you at certain clubs, certain places exactly where in a crowd you're going to get racial abuse from. It's been the same when I started and it'll be the same now."

Brighton is considered to be the gay capital of England and their fans continue to receive homophobic abuse. The programme catalogued 20 such incidents across three matches.

The programme searched Twitter and discovered that at least 40% of the 150 black Premier League players had been subjected to some sort of racist comment over the last two years.

Football Association director of governance and regulation, Darren Bailey, tells the programme that clubs want the incidents to be dealt with.

"They understand that this affects their business, they understand that it affects their brand, they understand it affects their club and they want to do something about it."

The Premier League says: " The Premier League and our member clubs are committed to eradicating discriminatory behaviour at our football matches.

"Steward training focuses on dealing with discriminatory abuse and improved reporting procedures have been introduced, including guidance on how to report at the match or later on.

"The new Kick It Out reporting app makes reporting issues more accessible and discreet.

"Stewarding is backed up by improved CCTV in grounds and by the use of sanctions against offenders, including expulsion from the ground, suspension of season tickets, and banning from future matches.

"Most of the alleged offences identified by Dispatches took place outside grounds and beyond the control of football clubs, however the Premier League and our clubs have always worked closely with the police .... to ensure that if criminality is involved then robust action is taken ....we have always argued for the strongest possible action where the evidence merits it."

:: Undercover: Hate on the Terraces - Channel 4 Dispatches - is to be shown tomorrow night at 8pm.


From Belfast Telegraph