Burnley fans reported for hate crimes more than any other club in past two years

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter

Burnley supporters were reported for alleged hate crimes at football matches more often than any other club in England or Wales over the last two completed seasons, according to Home Office data.

There were 17 instances where the Clarets were reported, while Manchester United, Sunderland and West Ham were the subject of 13 reports each, a request under the Freedom of Information Act by the PA news agency has found.

Fifteen of the 17 reports concerning Burnley related to discrimination on the grounds of race, while two related to sexual orientation.

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Graphic showing the number of hate crime reports per club in the last two seasons (PA Graphic)
Graphic showing the number of hate crime reports per club in the last two seasons (PA Graphic)

In the case of Manchester United, nine related to race, one to religion and three to sexual orientation.

Twelve of the reports related to Sunderland supporters had to do with race, with one related to sexual orientation. West Ham were reported for six race-related offences, four linked to religion and three to sexual orientation.

The data covers matches in England and Wales in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns.

Reports of incidents were submitted to the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) by police dedicated football officers (DFOs). These reports may be informed by information obtained from partner organisations such as the Football Association and Kick It Out.

The data does not show which clubs were responsible for making the reports, and there may be a number of occasions where supporters have highlighted misconduct among their own fanbase.

Sunderland encourage supporters to be proactive in reporting discrimination (Simon Cooper/PA)
Sunderland encourage supporters to be proactive in reporting discrimination (Simon Cooper/PA)

Sunderland and Burnley highlighted their own proactive policies for reporting abuse among their own support, while Manchester United said that they continue to take “strong action” against anyone identified as engaging in racist or any discriminatory abuse and encourage people to speak out and report any abuse that they witness.

Ten of the reports were about fans of Chelsea, Leeds and Leicester. Blackburn, Millwall and Tottenham supporters were reported on nine occasions each.

One of the reports on Chelsea concerned an individual who directed racial abuse at Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling during a Premier League match on December 8, 2018.

Raheem Sterling was targeted during a game between Chelsea and Manchester City in December 2018 (Adam Davy/PA)
Raheem Sterling was targeted during a game between Chelsea and Manchester City in December 2018 (Adam Davy/PA)

Chelsea banned the supporter for life in June 2019, but the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge.

There were 23 occasions across the two seasons where clubs were reported for hate crimes related to sexual orientation in games against Brighton – with Southampton the club reported in three of those instances.

The matches where Burnley were reported were Premier League fixtures against Watford (December 9, 2017), Tottenham (December 23, 2017), Manchester United (December 26, 2017 and January 20, 2018), Brighton (April 28, 2018 and February 9, 2019), Bournemouth (September 22, 2018), Cardiff (September 29, 2018 and April 13, 2019), Leicester (November 10, 2018), Newcastle (November 26, 2018), Crystal Palace (March 2, 2019), Manchester City (April 28, 2019) and Arsenal (May 12, 2019), plus Europa League games against Istanbul Basaksehir (August 16, 2018) and Olympiacos (August 30, 2018).

Two reports from one game, against Brighton on February 9, related to race and sexual orientation. Stewart Higgins and his son Nathan Higgins both ultimately appeared at Brighton and Hove Magistrates’ Court charged with using discriminatory language towards home supporters, while Nathan Higgins was also charged with racially abusing Brighton player Gaetan Bong.

Burnley fans Stewart Higgins, left, and his son Nathan Higgins arrive at Brighton Magistrates’ Court (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Burnley fans Stewart Higgins, left, and his son Nathan Higgins arrive at Brighton Magistrates’ Court (Gareth Fuller/PA)

They denied the charges, and the case collapsed last month over failings in the evidence.

Home Office data published in September found that in the 2018-19 season, the number of matches where hate crime was reported increased by 47 per cent from 131 matches in 2017-18 to 193 matches in 2018-19.

It stated in its report that some of the increase was likely due to improvements in recording. Of the 193 matches, 79 per cent of the hate crime incidents related to race. Not every report specified which club’s supporters were the alleged perpetrators.

The current season has also been blighted by incidents of discriminatory behaviour involving supporters.

Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop reported homophobic abuse being directed at him and referee John Busby during his side’s League One match against Tranmere last Sunday, while last month players from Haringey Borough walked off the pitch during their FA Cup qualifying match against Yeovil over racist abuse.

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