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'It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come' says Kick It Out

VIEWS: Lord Ouseley

JUST AS teamwork is crucial to success on a football pitch, partnerships are central to our work. Without them, we simply can’t function.
On that note, we recently teamed up with live-score app, Forza Football, to quiz 27,000 supporters across 38 countries on their attitudes towards racism in football. It’s the largest survey of its kind - and the results have caused quite a stir.

Let’s start with the positives. One of the most encouraging findings was the very obvious global trend towards an acceptance of the BAME community’s central role in football. Eighty-four per cent of fans worldwide said they would feel comfortable with a player of a different ethnic or racial background representing their nation or club team.

When I look back to where we were 25 years ago - when we launched as Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football in response to the appalling abuse faced by black players – it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. There’s a long way to go.

Take Great Britain, for instance, where 91 per cent of supporters said they were comfortable with a BAME player or manager representing their team. Again, that’s hugely encouraging progress, but even 9 per cent in a stadium of 60,000 people would mean more than 5,000 fans who are openly unsupportive of BAME representation at their club.

That must change. The research is a timely reminder of both the progress that has been made in tackling racism in football, and the challenges that remain.

And how do we achieve change? Well, another key takeaway from our stats is the clear appetite among fans for a bolder approach from governing bodies when it comes to abuse. The FA, UEFA and FIFA can’t ignore the 60 per cent of supporters globally who want harsher sanctions for repeated racist behaviour – including points deductions. Or the 74 per cent of fans who want previous racist behaviour to be considered when awarding tournaments.

We don’t need a survey to tell us paltry fines have a very limited impact, and rarely, if ever, change behaviour. The powers that be need a firmer approach to tackling hatred.

It’s not just the area of sanctions where governing bodies need to raise their game. Despite more than half (54 per cent) of fans surveyed saying they had witnessed racism while watching football, only 28 per cent of them know how to report it.

Even in Britain, where we work tirelessly to promote awareness of our app, Freephone, online contact form and any number of other methods to report racism, just 40 per cent of supporters know how to report.

Ahead of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, only 13 per cent of Arabic countries we surveyed know how to report racism. That’s a bleak finding.

Individuals must take responsibility, too. If you’re at a game and you know how to report racism, don’t be a bystander.

You can challenge offenders directly, but that can be intimidating and potentially dangerous. We’ve been working closely with Premier League and EFL clubs to ensure stewards are properly trained to deal with complaints appropriately. So, if you feel safe enough to do so, you can report abuse to them.

If you don’t, then remember you can always contact Kick It Out.

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