The 2020(1) UEFA Football Championship, was a tense and eventful month packed with rises and falls, long awaited by fans of the sport after the tournament having been postponed by a year due to COVID-19. For many, however, this nerve-wracking anticipation extended past the boundaries of football, and hit through the walls of a legitimate state of fear and anxiety for what would be to come if the outcomes were not supported by their community. An event built off of unification and pride, quickly transformed into a cold and divisive means of discrimination.
This was particularly the case for Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho on the English national team, who after losing the final during penalties, faced immense backlash and blatantly racist comments on cyber platforms from alleged English football supporters. This cyber violence even emerged itself off of the screen, as black and brown people were facing violence in public spaces by the hands of avidly racist football fans.
Despite the severity of this matter, such an outcome has unfortunately been awaited by many English people familiar with the tendencies their neighbors seem to face when such matters arise. It has been calculated that domestic violence reports increase by 26% when the English team is in the light of victory, and by 38% when the team faces a loss, such as that against Italy during the Euro final. (The Economist) Between 2018 and 2019, it was reported that race based discrimination reports increased by 43%. (The National Law Review) These statistics have been sustained for years, and matters haven't seemed to improve upon reflection of what has most recently occurred.
Over recent years however, a few measures have been set into place in attempts to lessen the frequency of racial violence occurring, and to decrease the domestic violence linked to the game which many of the world come together to adore. One change introduced by the FA for the 2019/2020 season, was the FA Rule E3(3), increasing the minimum amount of matches players would be banned for after being found guilty of any racist action, from 5 to 10 games. This now also includes any gender, sex, religious, or disability based discrimination. In addition, the FA has made it a point to fine clubs whose fans are engaged in any sort of racist activity, such as Millwall FC after the team's fans were allegedly performing a discriminatory chant for a brief 14 seconds, causing the club to pick up a fine of £10,000. Nevertheless, fines have not proven to be a deterrent for racial abuse or a true incentive to stop racial crime. (The National Law Review)
When such events take place and hit the lens of the media, how does the UK protect its people from such deeply impactful offenses? Article 14 of the 1998 Human Rights Act, states that "all the rights and freedoms afforded to individuals by the Act must be protected and applied without discrimination." (Equality and Human Rights Commission) This article is based on the core belief that everyone, regardless of background, deserves equal access to human rights. However, football clubs are not endorsed under this act, as they are private establishments and not public authorities, such as the police force. Despite the lack of helpful action brought by Article 14, the UK government still bears an obligation under the Human Rights Act to assure the protection of criminal and regulatory laws are applied to the rights of the people, and that the overarching system protects its citizens from racial attacks.
Despite the fact that certain measures meant to tackle such matters are already holding their ground, recent events such as those during the Euro final present greater evidence that the underlying issue remains at hand. Hopefully, significant changes will be made in the foreseeable future, so that the globally cherished sport can be enjoyed in unity once again.
Equality and Human Rights Commission. “Article 14: Protection from Discrimination |
Equality and Human Rights Commission.” Equalityhumanrights.com, 2010,
The Economist. “Domestic Violence Surges after a Football Match Ends.” The Economist, 9
July 2021, www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/07/09/domestic-violence-
The National Law Review. “Discrimination in Football: Will Rule Changes Help to Kick It
Out?” The National Law Review, 12 Aug. 2019,
kick-it-out. Accessed 1 Sept. 2021.