World soccer has seen a troubling amount of hateful incidents over the past year, according to a study released Tuesday by a organization aimed at ending discrimination in the sport. The group, Kick It Out, said it received 402 total reports of discrimination last season, up about 2.3 percent from the year prior, which saw 393 incidents.
Of those 402 reports, 135 — or about 33.6 percent — happened at the professional level. About 54 percent involved race discrimination, 20.5 percent involved faith, 17 percent sexual orientation, 7 percent gender, 1 percent disability and 0.5 percent involved age. Year-to-year, faith-based discrimination saw the largest uptick, rising 3.5 percent from 2014-2015.
Just last week, supporters of a Polish club held a starkly anti-Semitic rally aimed at the fans of a rival club. The fans of the club Widzew Łódź reportedly targeted the fans of ŁKS Łódź — known as a "Jewish club" — by burning effigies representing Jewish people and displayed a banner calling for Jews to be burned. "19.08, today the Jews were named. Let them burn, motherf----rs," read a banner, according to a report from the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism. The date referred to the founding year of ŁKS Łódź.
Social media-based incidents saw the largest overall uptick in the Kick It Out report. There were 194 reported incidents of discrimination involving social media, an increase of 18 percent from the year prior.
Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley told BBC News that global soccer has the ability to bring people together, but has also seen worrying levels of hate, especially involving young people.
"Young people are vulnerable to the increased levels of prejudice and hate which has been evidenced by increases in reported hate crimes and incidents," he said.
The organization called for education projects aimed at fans and for more diversity among world soccer's leaders, who are largely white men.