Racism has long been a noticeable problem connected to English football fans. Recently, those allegations have resurfaced.

Pablo Lario

Racism has long been a noticeable problem connected to English football fans.

British football fans have been plagued by claims of racist behaviour since the 1970s. Recently, those allegations have resurfaced, bringing into question the connection between racism and English football fans.

The Re-Emergence

On October 16, England faced Bulgaria in a Euro 2020’s qualifying game. Despite winning comfortably 6-0 against the host country, their victory was overshadowed.

The game was stopped twice due to racist behaviour by home fans, which included Nazi salutes and monkey chants. The gestures were mostly aimed at the England team, most evidently Manchester City’s star winger Raheem Sterling.

Just a few hours after the match, Bulgaria’s manager Krasimir Balakov resigned. He was followed by Bulgarian Football Union (FU) president Borislav Mihaylov, who resigned from his post after being ordered to by the country’s prime minister Boyko Borissov.

Even after the penalty for racism was given, the debate of whether football organisations are dedicated to stopping racial discrimination continues.

Jonathan McIntosh/Flickr

An Unfortunate History

In the 1970s and 1980s, racism was becoming a major problem. Since then, professional black players have faced mass racist chanting from large sections of the crowd and banana skins have been thrown onto pitches. There was very few ethnic minority (BAME) players, referees, coaches or bosses in positions of power in the FA.

The Players

Incidents of racist abuse in English football rose last season, according to a report by anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out. Professional footballers have been subjected to racist chants, verbal abuse and trolling on social media simply because of their ethnicity.

Inter Milan and Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku took to social media to voice his concerns about the recent racial abuse that he and other black players have faced. The former Manchester United striker said that football is ‘going backwards’ regarding racism. Other professional black players, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Tammy Abraham in the Premier League, have also been targeted on social media.

Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho said incidents of racism made him question why he chose to play football when there is so much hate.

There is a pattern of repeated racial abuse in stadiums, with UEFA excluding multiple clubs and countries from tournaments. The prominence of racism concerning English football fans is nothing new, and allegations continue to follow them like a shadow.

Pablo Lario
BA Journalism