The experience of black fans at football matches

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A year after the shocking racist abuse of Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford following the Euro 2020 final, black football fans remain concerned about the potential for racist abuse.

Ahead of the 2021/22 season, research by YouGov found that almost three-quarters (73%) of ethnic minorities planning to attend a game feared racist abuse at a stadium.

The survey also found that around 92% of black fans feared a player would receive racist abuse during a game.

Moyo Abiona, a member of the first black female-led football podcast in England, the Goal Diggers, said that although she was disappointed to hear the statistics, she was not at all surprised.

She said: “My personal experience was good when I attended Manchester United games at Old Trafford.

“But from what friends who attend football games have told me, it’s no surprise that people actively reflect on racial abuse they may hear or see before attending a football game. soccer.”

“Ethnic minorities must weigh the decision to attend football matches or watch them at a screening where the majority of people will be of black or minority background.

“Niche groups like podcasts, or predominantly black or Asian organizations, are doing more live screenings so people from those communities can feel more welcome in a place and have a sense of belonging.”

For things to improve, Abiona said the landscape of football in general needs to change, but acknowledges it can be difficult in areas where there is a lack of diversity.

She added: “When I went to an Arsenal game I never felt like I belonged as there are a lot of black players at Arsenal and the club is located in North London. , which has a strong black community.

“But if I were to go to a Burnley game, for example, I might not feel as comfortable given that there is a lack of black and diverse presence within the fanbase. “

Justin Charles, who regularly attends Arsenal matches, spoke of an awkward experience when he and a number of black colleagues sat in the hospitality box seats at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton.

He said: “I personally haven’t been abused, but when I attended that game I felt very uncomfortable.

“There were about 20-25 of us, we were all black and when we approached our seats we received very embarrassed looks from a number of white fans in the regular seats.

“They looked shocked at how many black people they had seen and it was almost like they were surprised that we were sitting in hospitality seats and while we were watching the game they kept on telling us to look at.

“I didn’t feel comfortable at all”

Charles echoed Abiona’s sense of being comfortable attending Arsenal games due to the diversity of fans and said it’s usually the London clubs or big six clubs where you see that.

He added: “Going to Arsenal I never felt uncomfortable or out of place. Even when I went to Selhurst Park to watch a Palace game, their stadium is at the heart of a very diversity of south London and I felt more included.

“However, in smaller towns in England where there are few or no black people, I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable attending games there.

“It was obvious when I went to Southampton.”

Another Arsenal regular, Louison Malanda, has mentioned that racism is something he regularly thinks about due to the recent notable instances in football over the past two years.

He said: “There have been notable incidents of racism towards high-profile players such as Raheem Sterling and Saka, and that only underscores the racial hostilities that still exist in this country.

“It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of English football these days.”

When asked what could be done to end the abuse, Malanda said education and awareness was important, but stressed it couldn’t go any further.

He added, “Raising awareness and educating fans on what is right is important. However, we have seen some people express their annoyance at players who keep taking the knee as they feel it loses its purpose.

“It almost seems like taking the knee is white noise for what should happen before the game with no action coming from it.

“Also, a lot of the abuse we see these days comes from troll social media accounts where people know racial abuse is wrong but say those nasty things because they think they can get attention without be found.”

All three acknowledge that football is getting better for the traditional black fan, but realize there is still a long way to go to make fans from all communities feel welcome in the sport.

Featured image credit: Ben Sutherland via Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0

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