News 30 June 2020

New Report Reveals Racial Bias In Commentary Of English Football

30 June 2020

A groundbreaking report has revealed the racial bias which exists in commentary of English football.

According to a recent report, it showed that players with lighter skin are regularly and overwhelmingly praised by commentators for intelligence, work ethic, and consistency compared to those with darker skin, who are reduced to physical and athletic attributes.

The report was conducted by Danish research firm RunRepeat and is the first to have focused on how football media comments on players differently based on their skin tone. During the report, over 2,000 statements were collected from commentary on 80 games across the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1.

RunRepeat ratio-adjusted its numbers to account for the fact there were 1,361 comments about lighter-skinned players and 713 about darker-skinned players and found the former were more widely praised for intelligence (62.60%), hard work (60.40%) and quality (62.79%). The report found that players with darker skin were 6.59 times more likely to receive comments about their power, and 3.38 times more likely to receive comments from commentators on their pace.

The study also found that 63.33% of criticism from commentators in relation to the intelligence of a player is aimed at those with darker skin, while the figure for quality is 67.57%.

The results of RunRepeat are relevant due to the focus on racial injustice and racism highlighted by the recent Black Lives Matter protests. The study has been supported by the Professional Footballers’ Association, which called on the football media to be more considerate about how they talk and evaluate players to break long-standing and harmful stereotypes.

“To address the real impact of structural racism, we have to acknowledge and address racial bias,”  the PFA’s equalities executive, Jason Lee, said. “This study shows an evident bias in how we describe the attributes of footballers based on their skin colour.” 

Research by RunRepeat took six months and focused on the 2019-20 season on 20 games from each team. Sky Sports has been holding sessions with its presenters, reporters, and analysts to discuss the importance of the terminology they use to discuss athletes from different backgrounds.