Preston North End fans among the best behaved in the country
No Preston North End fans were reported for alleged hate crimes at football matches over the last two seasons, figures reveal.
But with a recent rise in reported racist and discriminatory abuse at football matches across England and Wales, the National Police Chiefs' Council says the “abhorrent behaviour” is a re-emerging problem in the game.
Home Office data shows that Preston North End was one of 19 clubs whose supports were flagged for no hate crime incidents in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Meanwhile, Burnley fans were reports 17 times – more than any other club in England and Wales.
The data, obtained by the PA news agency via a request under the Freedom of Information Act, does not specify whether the reports were made by opposition supporters or fans of the team reported.
It covers matches in England and Wales in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns.
Home Office data published in September showed that hate crime incidents were reported at 193 matches across England and Wales in the 2018-19 season – up from 131 the previous year.
But the government department said that some of the increase was likely to be due to improvements in recording.
Alleged race hate crimes accounted for 79 per cent of matches in which a report was made.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the NPCC’s football policing lead, said: "Racism at football is a re-emerging problem, although I don't think it's ever truly gone away.
"It was controlled for a while and became socially unacceptable, but it is a real concern we have seen it creep back with such regularity into the national game.
"With reduced levels of policing on the ground, those committing this abhorrent behaviour do not have the immediate sanction of a police officer arresting them.”
Kick It Out, which campaigns for equality and inclusion in the game, said the rise in discrimination in football is a challenge for all clubs at all levels across the country, adding: “To this extent, football mirrors society”.
It said methods for reporting abusive behaviour at football matches were improving, which could explain a rise in the figures.
It added: “We encourage clubs to continue building on the good work they have already done in creating effective reporting mechanisms.”
Several high-profile cases of reported hate crime at football matches have brought the problem to prominence in recent years.
A Chelsea fan was reported for alleged racial abuse directed at Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling during a Premier League match in December last year.
Although the supporter was banned from matches for life in June, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge.
And Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop reported homophobic abuse being directed at him and a referee during his side's League One match against Tranmere in November this year.