Racism in football has been thrust under the public glare after a group of Chelsea fans were filmed singing racist chants after refusing to let a black man board the Paris Metro.
Chelsea have swiftly and strongly condemned the behaviour of the group and said they would look to take “the strongest possible action against them”. The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust has backed this stance.
While the vast majority of Chelsea fans would undoubtedly abhor the behaviour caught on camera, stats from the UK home office reveal that racism is still an ongoing problem at both Stamford Bridge and football as a whole.
From the beginning of the 2003/2004 season to the end of last season, 25 Chelsea fans were arrested for racist or indecent chanting - more than any other club. Sunderland, West Ham United and Millwall are the only other clubs to have had over 20 fans arrested for the offence in the same period.
Chelsea had a total of 1,222 fans arrested in the 10-year period, meaning two per cent of all their supporters’ misdemeanours have been defined as racist or indecent chanting.
The highest percentage of arrests for racist chanting in the Football League belongs to North London based Barnet with 10.8 per cent. Eight out of 74 arrests of their fans were for the offence.
Of current Premier League clubs, West Bromwich Albion have the highest percentage. Manchester United, Manchester City and Crystal Palace have the lowest. None have not had a single arrest for racist chanting.
In total, 463 of the 36,772 arrests of football fans since the beginning of the ‘03/’04 season have been for offensive chanting - around 1.3 per cent. There have been 109 clubs to have appeared in the Football or Premier League in that time - 75 have had fans arrested for chants deemed racist or indecent.
Last season 21 football fans were arrested for the offence - the lowest number since 2000. That’s obviously a statistic to be welcomed but, unfortunately, the data does not reveal any consistent decline in incidents of the offence in recent years.
While both the incidences racist chanting and its percentage of total arrests has dropped significantly since the beginning of the century, there has been no consistent pattern of decline in either measure in more recent years.
These figures only show those cases of racist chanting where fans are caught and while it’s true that the individuals do not represent the vast, vast minority of fans (0.00005 per cent of English football’s total 38m attendance last season), they also reveal a problem that hasn’t gone away and still needs to be tackled.