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Here's what you can do to tackle hate speech in football

CHALLENGING HATE: Dele Alli warms up wearing a Kick It Out t-shirt

THERE USED to be a newspaper term for a brave person who chose to challenge criminal or anti-social behaviour rather than walk away - “have-a-go hero”.

There are many people who have cause to be grateful to them, not least the police, though they always make it clear that their advice is for people not to get involved for their own safety.
Sadly, as we know, for some they result is injury and in some high profile cases, the would-be hero pays for their courage with their lives.

So when it comes to witnessing or hearing racist or other discriminatory abuse, what should the average citizen do?

As an organisation, Kick It Out has been helped by many such “have-a-go heroes” over the 25 years we’ve been campaigning against hate speech in whatever form.

That’s not to say we would ever encourage anyone to risk life and limb, of course not, but it takes bottle to decide that what you’re hearing needs to be addressed and reported.

Indeed, we and the rest of the football world actively set out to protect and support those that do but we appreciate it isn’t always easy.

Imagine you have been sitting or standing in the same place at the ground where your team plays for years. You’re happy there, you know the people around you, you’ve shared the ups and (mostly) downs of watching the side whose colours you choose to wear. You sing the songs, enjoy the chat and the humour.

And then, some new people arrive in your area and they aren’t quite so friendly. Some of their language upsets you, maybe it turns into racist or homophobic or sexist abuse.

What do you do now?

You can challenge them directly but that can be intimidating and frankly, scary. You can tell a steward (if the club is big enough) but how do you know what you say will be treated in confidence or taken seriously?

Do you walk away and hope it doesn’t happen again or that they don’t come back? Possibly you might be the one who decides not to come back. The pleasure you get from watching football might be over.

I’d hope you would report it to us – via our app or online via e-mail. There’s an option for you to remain anonymous but here’s a thing – in two-thirds of cases where the complainant is anonymous, there is no successful outcome.

In our experience, where the reporter is not anonymous (to the authorities) there is almost always a successful result. And by that, I mean banning orders, not just from that club but from all football.

It’s hard for the authorities to act with our support if they can’t get more details or ask further questions. Some of the cases collapse through “lack of evidence” and another racist or homophobe gets away with it.

We at Kick It Out are in full agreement with the FA, the PFA, the EFL and the Premier League: we want these people out of football.

To a great extent these people are being driven out of football. By which I mean football grounds. But as we all know, that doesn’t include social media.

A couple of years ago, Arsenal worked with us to ban fans from all club activities for discriminatory tweets and online postings, and every club has a “zero tolerance” approach now but it’s a huge area to police.

We’ve also seen people posting how they’ve called out abusive behaviour and then they themselves have been abused. It can be a hostile environment and as I’ve said before, I know it’s not always easy to stand up and be counted.

In sport, we hear the phrase “marginal gains” a lot. Those tiny differences that can be the difference between a win and a draw.

So imagine this marginal gain. If everyone who witnesses discriminatory behaviour or language took the trouble to quietly and report it through the correct channels, just think what a difference that would make.

A whole bunch of modern day “have-a-go heroes”.

I am in no way criticising anyone who’s walked away in the past through fear – it’s natural and understandable. The phrase “choose your battles” comes to mind.

But if you do come forward - via our app, freephone number, online reporting form or by email - I can promises that we will support you, protect you and get you the result you - and the game of football - deserves.

For more information on how to report abuse to Kick It Out, click here.

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