28/12/2019 07:55 GMT | Updated 28/12/2019 07:55 GMT

2019: A Disgraceful Year Of Racism In Football

From Raheem Sterling to Romelu Lukaku, Haringey Borough to the national women's team, the sport has (again) been marred by racism in 2019.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly leaves the pitch after receiving a red card from the referee during a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Napoli, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy. The Napoli defender had been the target of racist chants during the match.

Towards the end of last year, former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright said “the bad old days” were back.

He was referring to a video of a supporter appearing to abuse Manchester City player Raheem Sterling in a match against Chelsea.

The next day, Sterling blamed media coverage of young Black footballers for fuelling racism in the UK. He has since continuously called for football authorities to tackle the problem of racism in the sport.

From a Tottenham fan throwing a banana skin at a Black player to former West Ham director of player recruitment, Tony Henry, discriminating against African players, incidents of racism in football – on and off the pitch – had hit headlines again and again in 2018.

Thought we were on our way to stamping the problem out in 2019? Dream on.


Mark Sampson, former England women’s coach, apologised to Eni Aluko following allegations he had made racist remarks towards her while in charge of the national team. Later in the year, in the lead-up to the release of her book They Don’t Teach This, she challenged the sport’s authorities to “do way better” in combating racism.

Racist chanting was heard during an FA Cup match between Millwall and Everton FC, prompting anti-discrimination group Kick It Out to condemn the behaviour and call for action to be taken.


Two fans were ejected and arrested in response to racist abuse aimed at Brighton defender Gaetan Bong during Burnley’s 3-1 Premier League victory at the Amex stadium in Brighton. 


England pair Callum Hudson-Odoi and Danny Rose said they heard monkey chants from the stands during England’s 5-1 Euro 2020 qualification victory against Montenegro. Manager Gareth Southgate also confirmed hearing the racist abuse.

In response to this, England captain Harry Kane said he would consider leading his players off the field if they were subjected to racial abuse again.

Tottenham's Danny Rose at a match against Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield stadium in Liverpool.

Following the furore, Black football fans told HuffPost UK they believed racism would remain a permanent fixture in football. Manchester United supporter Ernie Harriott said: “Racism isn’t going anywhere, any time soon. When I hear about the frequent incidents of racism in football, particularly in the UK, I just think: ‘Here we go again.’ What’s new?”

Sheffield United have terminated the contract of Sophie Jones by mutual agreement after the forward was banned for five matches for racially abusing Tottenham defender Renee Hector.

Hector alleged she “received some monkey noises from an opposition player” during a Women’s Championship game at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Stadium in January, leading to Jones being charged by the Football Association.


Twitter has been urged to take action after racially abusive tweets targeting a range of Premier League footballers were found on the site up to five years after being posted.

The Press Association found dozens of historical posts with racist language aimed at Premier League players such as Mohamed Salah, Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling.


Crystal Palace’s club doctor has said he and his family were racially abused by a young child near Selhurst Park ahead of the match against Bournemouth. The club were quick to condemn the incident and vowed to assist the doctor should he wish to take the “disgraceful” incident further.

Crystal Palace’s club doctor has said he and his family were racially abused by a young child

Meanwhile, the Premier League said it would welcome the opportunity to speak to Raheem Sterling and other players about developing ideas to combat racism.


Home Office data revealed that Manchester United supporters had been involved in more football-related arrests where racism was an aggravating factor or a feature than any other club in England in the four seasons up to 2017-18. 


Chelsea permanently banned one supporter from Stamford Bridge for the use of racially abusive language – again towards Raheem Sterling – and threatening and aggressive behaviour during a game with Manchester City in December 2018.

Former England striker Les Ferdinand said racism in the game would not be tackled without more diversity in leadership positions. 

Speaking at the launch of the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust’s education and mentoring scheme Strike a Change, he said: “When you look at the FA, there’s nobody of colour in a position of power. Until we start addressing that, we’re going to keep having to deal with these incidents because it doesn’t affect the people in power.” 


The Andalusian Football Association (RFAF) opened an investigation into allegations of racist abuse directed towards Queen Park Rangers’ under-18 players during a friendly match in Spain. The team walked off the pitch in response to the incident.


Former England international Paul Parker and Jamaica and Wimbledon ex-striker Marcus Gayle called on white players to take more responsibility for tackling racism.

The pair spoke out at the Labour Party conference in Brighton as racism continued to dominate football news in a manner not seen in decades.

And Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku urged footballers to take a united stance against racist abuse, saying the situation was getting worse, not better. The Belgian star was racially abused by Cagliari fans while playing against his Internazionale side in Italy’s Serie A.

Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku, foreground right, and Genoa's Davide Biraschi vie for the ball during a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Genoa, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy.

In an Instagram post, Lukaku wrote: “Football is a game to be enjoyed by everyone and we shouldn’t accept any form of discrimination that will put our game in shame.

“I hope the football federations all over world react strongly on all cases of discrimination!”

Former England and Newcastle forward Peter Beardsley was suspended from all football-related activity after being found guilty of making racist comments by an independent regulatory commission.

The 58-year-old, who denied the allegations, left his role as the Magpies’ Under-23s coach earlier this year after an internal investigation and has been banned from the game by the Football Association for 32 weeks until April 2020.

Peter Beardsley


Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings against both Bulgaria and England following the Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia

The game had to be stopped twice because of racist abuse aimed at the England players by the crowd. Bulgarian fans made Nazi salutes and directed monkey noises at black England players.

This prompted the resignation of president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov, following pressure from Bulgaria’s prime minister Boyko Borissov.

Within days of this happening, Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town football clubs were led off the pitch by their managers in the 64th minute following racist abuse during an FA Cup match. Two men were arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated common assault.

It is thought this was the first time a match at such a senior level had been abandoned due to racism.

In the same month, Manchester United ejected a fan from Old Trafford during a Premier League match against Liverpool over alleged racial abuse. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Haringey Borough goalkeeper Valery Pajetat (left) walks out onto the pitch at the start of the FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay match at Coles Park Stadium, London.

Video footage circulated showed a group of Aston Villa’s fans singing about the club’s Zimbabwean midfielder Marvelous Nakamba and one other player, with references to several racial stereotypes. 

Brighton FC handed out “lengthy” bans to three supporters following incidents of racism at the Amex Stadium. Two supporters were ejected from the stadium at an Under-23s game against Tottenham in September and had their details forwarded to Sussex Police for further investigation.


Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Taison was sent off and subsequently banned for one match after reacting to alleged racist abuse during his side’s 1-0 home win against Dynamo Kiev.

Brazil international Taison gestured to the away fans and then kicked the ball into their section of the stand before the referee led all the players off the field in the 77th minute.

Video footage shows Taison and Brazilian team-mate Dentinho leaving the field in tears after both had allegedly been targeted, while they were consoled by several Dynamo Kiev players. 

Meanwhile, Everton investigated an incident of alleged racist behaviour during their Premier League draw against Tottenham.

During a meeting West Bromwich Albion players, Prince William discussed the impact of racism on professional footballers’ mental health as part of the Heads Up campaign. The Duke of Cambridge said he was “fed up” of discrimination in the sport.


Tottenham Spurs launched an investigation after Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger reported being targeted with monkey chants during the second half of the game at the Tottenham stadium.

This prompted Downing Street to issue a warning to football authorities to step up efforts to tackle racism.

Earlier this month, Italian football league Serie A came under fire for – astonishingly – using three paintings of monkeys to illustrate a campaign to stamp out racism that has been branded as a “sick joke”.

This came after Italian daily Corriere dello Sport was accused of fuelling racism with its bizarre front page headline “Black Friday” alongside pictures of Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku and Roma’s Chris Smalling.

The former Manchester United team-mates were due to go up against each other for their new clubs the following day.

Gloucestershire football club Forest Green have also threatened to take action against a supporter following an incident of racist abuse during their Sky Bet League Two game with Scunthorpe.

A video circulated that appeared to show a supporter making a monkey gesture at a player during a match between Manchester City and Manchester United.

The scourge showed no sign of letting up as the year drew to a close. Two Doncaster men were arrested on Boxing Day after racist chanting was reported in the away stand at Peterborough’s Weston Homes Stadium. It happened as the city’s United side played Doncaster Rovers.

Will 2020 be any better? We can hope – but we’re not holding our breath.