London: Incidents of racism and homophobia in English football are on the rise, according to pressure group 'Kick It Out'. The mid-season report of the group said it had received more than 300 reports relating to 282 cases of discriminatory abuse by the end of 2017, a 59 percent increase from the last season, when there were 177 incidents.
The increase was even worse in the professional and semi-professional game, with 131 of those incidents coming from the National League and above - a 75 percent increase on last season.
More than half of those incidents were for racism, with one in five related to homophobia and one in 10 being anti-Semitic.
"I am often asked if these increases are because of more awareness about discrimination or because of more discrimination -- I would say this is a bit of both," explained Kick It Out chief executive Roisin Wood following the release of the figures on Wednesday.
Wood said the use of social media had led to an increase in "virulent and targeted" abuse.
"We know how far football has come but we also know how much more there is to be done. Recent research has found that hate crimes are on the up. If that is happening in society, it will be reflected in football," she added.
"I think it's become more virulent and targeted but we are working with Facebook and Twitter to address this and they do deal with offensive material when it is flagged up."
Tuesday saw Chelsea announce they would look into an allegation of anti-Semitic chanting during their recent Premier League defeat by Watford.
"Anyone found guilty of anti-Semitic language or behaviour will face action from the club, including bans, and will be asked to attend equality education courses," a Chelsea spokesman said.