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An App for Challenging Bigotry

Kick It Out is an organization that campaigns against discrimination in football, with support from the Football Association and other official bodies. Kick It Out allows football fans to report instances of discrimination or abuse through an online form or free app. Midway through the 2014-15 season, Kick It Out reported that 17% of the complaints it received involved antisemitism.1 Later that year, Kick It Out launched a new version of its app that makes reporting even easier:

The sight of a black man being shoved off a Paris Metro train and racially abused by Chelsea supporters was one of the most sickening of last season.

But it is easy to forget that had it not been for the quick thinking of a fellow commuter who decided to film the incident on a mobile phone, the wider world would have remained completely ignorant of Souleymane Sylla’s torment.

His abusers would have escaped justice, too, the footage having been crucial to identifying them and securing lengthy banning orders against them last month.

Meanwhile, racist behaviour by three Leicester City players in May and by striker Jamie Vardy only last week was also exposed through video recordings.

Which is why a move by English football’s anti-discrimination watchdog, Kick It Out, to make it easier for people to report such conduct using audio-visual material could make a real difference in the fight against bigotry in the game.

Today sees Kick It Out launch an upgraded version of a free app first released two years ago which allows anyone attending matches to report, confidentially, any incidents of discrimination they witness while there.

The new and improved reporting app now includes a facility for a complaint to be made with accompanying video, photo and audio material – anonymously if desired.

The two years since the first version of the app was launched has witnessed a significant increase in the number of complaints received by Kick It Out.

Investigating many of them has proven difficult due to a lack of corroborating evidence and it is hoped the upgraded app will lead to more people being held to account for discriminatory behaviour.

Kick It Out chairman Lord Ouseley told Telegraph Sport he hoped the new features would make users “more confident to make complaints.”

He added: “The problem we’ve had in the past is that, often, it would end up being one person’s word against another person. That then puts the reliance on the regulator to do a lot of investigative work.

“This is not about a witch hunt and getting people to go around with their phones and picking up on everything.

“It’s about making sure that everyone knows what is expected of them and understanding that they will be caught.

“Everywhere now, there’s a camera on a phone and people are prepared to engage with the technology. If we can get them using the app then it helps us to rid the game of this scourge of abuse.”

Another new feature of the upgraded app is an option to report incidents of football-related hate crime on social media platforms.

That was added after Kick It Out revealed that 50% of complaints it received for the 2013-14 season related to social media abuse, and that research it commissioned in April estimated that an abusive post was directed at a Premier League player or club once every 2.6 minutes.

The original app built upon well-established methods of reporting discrimination, including via e-mail and freephone, with 38% of all complaints from the professional game in 2013-14 coming through it as part of an overall 269% increase in reports made to Kick It Out.

The latest set of statistics from Kick It Out for the 2014-15 season shows that 36% of reports registered in relation to the professional game came via the app, making it the most-used mechanism for registering complaints at that level.

Usage of the app increased by 59% between the 2013-14 season (34 complaints) and the 2014-15 campaign (54 complaints), with the reporting tool becoming one of the most prominent and well-known forms of registering a complaint.

Allowing users to submit video footage may make it even more so.2

Citations

  • 1 : David Conn, “Football Association welcomes a 70% rise in reporting racist abuse,” The Guardian, March 2, 2015, accessed May 25, 2016.
  • 2 : Ben Rumsby, “Fans can report racist abuse with new Kick It Out app,” The Telegraph, August 13, 2015, accessed May 25, 2016. Reproduced with permission of Telegraph Media Group Limited.

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