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Abuse in football 'more common than stats suggest'

ESPN staff
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Jason Roberts says he has experienced monkey chants at grounds "in the last two, three years" © PA Photos
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One of the country's leading policemen has claimed that racist abuse may be more prevalent at football grounds than statistics suggest due to under-reporting of incidents.

A Dispatches documentary, to be screened by Channel 4 on Monday evening, also reveals instances of homophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic abuse, while Reading striker Jason Roberts says he has been the subject of discrimination at every level of the game.

Deputy chief constable Andy Holt, national lead on football policing, said: "I think it's a more common problem, because of under-reporting, than the statistics would indicate ... I think there's potentially under-reporting by police officers and by clubs.''

Roberts, who has played in the Premier League with five different clubs, added: "I've heard it on Sundays as a young man, I've heard it non-league, I've heard it in Division Two, Division One, Championship and I've heard it in the Premier League. I've had it from people in the street, I've had it from team-mates, I've had it from managers, I've had it from coaches, I've had it from crowds.

"I have had monkey chants in the last two, three years. The frustration is that we all know it's happening, we all know where it's happening. I can tell you at certain clubs, certain places exactly where in a crowd you're going to get racial abuse from. It's been the same when I started and it'll be the same now.''

The documentary also claims that 40% of the Premier League's 150 black players have suffered racial abuse on Twitter in the past two years.

The Premier League responded by saying: "The Premier League and our member clubs are committed to eradicating discriminatory behaviour at our football matches.

"Steward training focuses on dealing with discriminatory abuse and improved reporting procedures have been introduced, including guidance on how to report at the match or later on. The new Kick It Out reporting app makes reporting issues more accessible and discreet.

"Stewarding is backed up by improved CCTV in grounds and by the use of sanctions against offenders, including expulsion from the ground, suspension of season tickets, and banning from future matches.

"Most of the alleged offences identified by Dispatches took place outside grounds and beyond the control of football clubs, however the Premier League and our clubs have always worked closely with the police ... to ensure that if criminality is involved then robust action is taken ... we have always argued for the strongest possible action where the evidence merits it.''

Football Association director of governance and regulation, Darren Bailey, tells the programme that clubs want the incidents to be dealt with. "They understand that this affects their business, they understand that it affects their brand, they understand it affects their club and they want to do something about it."

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