Soccer and the Problem of Online Racism: How Is Soccer Managing This Crisis?


Although overt racism in English soccer stadiums has decreased in recent decades, we have observed an increase of football related racism across social media. In 2022, The Alan Turing Institute released a report which tracked abuse on Twitter towards Premier League players across the 2021-22 season. Their machine learning tool found that there were 59,871 abusive tweets directed at Premier League footballers with 68 percent of players receiving abuse at least once. This paper first contextualises the debate and explore factors that have exacerbated racism online, and consider the ways in which contemporary soccer fandom has been impacted by digital media performances.The paper then discusses our empirical work by drawing on semi-structured interviews with 10 professional soccer clubs (4 Premier League, 2 Championship, 2 League One, 2 League Two). The paper critically analyses the response, or lack of, by English soccer clubs in the fight against racism and other forms of discrimination on social media. Our research illustrates that: there are a number of systematic failings undermining soccer’s attempts to address this issue including minimal or no co-ordination, unclear guidelines, ad hoc educational provision, and a culture of secrecy at many clubs. Online racism and abuse towards players, clubs and fans is one of, if not the most important issue facing the ‘beautiful game’ at this time. It is fundamental that we utilise research to understand and combat this problem. This paper therefore closes by providing a series of recommendations regarding how to challenge online racism in soccer/sport.


Daniel Kilvington
Associate Professor, Cultural Studies and Humanities, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, United Kingdom

Kevin Hylton
Professor , Leeds Beckett University

Jonathan Long
Emiritus Professor , Leeds Beckett University


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Media Marketing and Identity


Racism, Soccer, Digital Media, Social Media, Identities

Digital Media


Soccer and the Problem of Online Racism (pptx)