(Reuters) - Reports of discrimination across all levels of professional soccer in England and Wales rose by 42% last season despite it being suspended for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-racism organisation Kick It Out has said.
There were 446 reports of discrimination in the 2019-20 season, up from 313 in the previous campaign, while reports of racial abuse increased by 53%. There were also 117 reports of abuse based on sexual orientation -- a 95% rise.
Premier League teams have sought to highlight racial injustice following the season's restart in June with Black Lives Matter protests before kickoffs but Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari said there was still work to be done.
"This year the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd turned the world on its head," Bhandari said.
"Football responded positively with clubs increasing their work in the community and with the players symbolising the demand for greater equality of opportunity, by taking a knee.
"But beneath the surface, hate and division in society remains a lurking pernicious threat."
Crystal Palace's Patrick van Aanholt and Wilfried Zaha had called for social media platforms to take stronger action against racism after they were both subjected to online racial abuse.
"The FA has made huge strides in recent years to ensure that English football is a diverse and inclusive game, but we know there is more to be done," Paul Elliott, chair of the Football Association's Inclusion Advisory Board, said.
"We strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and... we investigate all reported forms of discriminatory abuse in English football at every level of the game."
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Chennai; Editing by Toby Davis)