More than half of all professional footballers in England have either witnessed or been subjected to racist abuse in stadiums, according to the results of a survey.
The poll of 200 players in the Premier League and Football League was carried out by football’s anti-discrimination group Kick It Out.
The players, of whom one third were from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, also overwhelmingly backed the ‘Rooney rule’ being brought into English football to give black coaches more of an opportunity.
Results of the poll show that 57 per cent of players have witnessed, and 24 per cent have been subjected to, racist abuse in stadiums. Meanwhile, seven per cent of players have been subjected to, and 20 per cent have witnessed, racist abuse on the training ground or in the dressing room.
A majority of 62 per cent of players felt mandatory shortlisting should be in place for black and minority ethnic candidates applying for coaching or administration jobs in football.
A total of 39 per cent of players have also witnessed homophobic abuse in stadiums and witnessed it on the training ground or in the dressing room.
Paul Mortimer, the former Charlton and Crystal Palace player who was appointed as Kick It Out’s professional player engagement manager partly in response to criticism of the campaign, said carrying out the survey was an important first step.
He told Press Association Sport: “These statistics show what players see from the pitch and in the training grounds.
“Now we have these figures we can go ahead and do something about it, pinpoint areas and put strategies in place.”
The backing for the Rooney rule, named after the regulation in American football where clubs have to interview at least one black or ethnic minority candidate when appointing coaches, came from both black and white players.
Mortimer added: “In fact the biggest portion of support for that were white players, across the board people looked at that.
“I am a black coach who found it difficult to find management roles and all you want is a fair opportunity to fight for the job, to be able to be interviewed and judged, and to know what the procedure is and for it to be transparent.”
The results showed 65 per cent of players were aware of the process to report abuse and were confident about doing so, while 91 per cent said social media has led to a big increase in abuse.
“It is a huge problem,” added Mortimer. “We have a reporting app which players can report social media abuse on and we also want to educate people how to handle abuse, such as not responding in person.”
He said: “What I am trying to say to all of them is that has happened and now it’s where we go from there. From now onwards we can come together and really be a voice, but if there are factions it loses power.”
The Football Association has launched four short animated films detailing exactly what to do if players or fans encounter discrimination while attending or taking part in a football match.
The films, available to view on the FA’s website, are being distributed across professional and grassroots football.