Aston Villa fans top list of hate crimes reports for 2019-20 season

Villa fans were reported on 13 occasions during the course of last season, with Wolves, Leeds and Tottenham the subject of 10 reports each, while Chelsea fans were reported nine times during the 2019-20 campaign.

Villa Park
Image: There were more reports of hate crime against Aston Villa supporters in 2019-20 than any other club

Aston Villa fans were reported for alleged hate crimes on more occasions than supporters of any other club in the 2019-20 season, according to Home Office data.

Fans of the West Midlands club were reported on 13 occasions, data obtained by the PA news agency under a Freedom of Information request shows.

They were reported for seven incidents related to race, five related to sexual orientation and one associated to religion.

Three clubs' supporters - Wolves, Leeds and Tottenham - were the subject of 10 reports each, while Chelsea fans were reported nine times.

The Home Office announced two months ago that there had been 319 incidents of hate crime reported at 287 of the 2,663 matches in England and Wales in the 2019-20 season.

Aston Villa Nilesh Chauhan 1:00
Nilesh Chauhan, co-founder of supporters group Villans Together, says the club is working hard on inclusivity after Home Office data showed Villa fans were reported for alleged hate crimes on 13 occasions last season

The reports came to the UK Football Policing Unit from either the Football Association or anti-discrimination body Kick It Out.

The FOI offers some insight as to when and where the reports were made, although it does not clarify whether clubs reported their own fans on any or every occasion.

All 10 of the reports assigned to Wolves related to race, while eight of those attributed to Leeds were also racist in nature, with two related to sexual orientation.

Six of Spurs' reports were for racism-related offences, one related to religion and three to sexual orientation.

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Chelsea's nine reports were made up of three for racism, four for religion and two for sexual orientation.

A group of eight clubs were the subject of seven reports each, according to the data. They were Manchester City, Sheffield United, Everton, Millwall, Leicester, Burnley, Portsmouth and Tranmere.

A number of the reports could not definitively be assigned to a club, so do not feature in the club-by-club data.

The FOI request also found that just four reports of hate crime were made related to matches played when the professional game resumed in June and July, even though online incidents were included in the data for the first time.

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One of the four matches where a report was made was the Manchester City v Burnley match on June 22, when the Home Office data shows a Burnley supporter was reported over an incident related to race.

This was the match where a plane was flown over the Etihad Stadium just before kick-off with a banner displaying the words 'White Lives Matter Burnley'.

The incident happened as players on the pitch were taking the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Aston Villa issued a statement on Tuesday in response to the findings in which they said they continue to work closely with Kick It Out, and have promoted the West Midlands Police reporting process to encourage the club's fans to report all instances of abuse.

Villa chief executive Christian Purslow said: "I firmly believe that to fix serious problems properly you have to face up to them, measure them and call them out. Reporting all instances of hate crime is the best way to root it out and be able to show zero tolerance to perpetrators.

Chief Executive of Aston Villa Christian Purslow during a press conference at Villa Park Stadium on October 15, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Image: Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow encouraged the club's fans to report all instances of abuse to help remove the 'stain of hate crime'

"Our club's commitment to promoting the reporting of all instances of hate crime will not cease and this report shows it is working. This work will go on until the stain of hate crime is removed from any link whatsoever to our great national sport and our proud club."

Nilesh Chauhan, co-founder of ethnically diverse club supporters' group Villans Together, told Sky Sports News: "These numbers are clearly not great but these reports relate to a minority of individuals or groups who don't care about Aston Villa Football Club.

"Aston Villa FC and the Aston Villa Foundation do a huge amount of great work to make diversity, inclusion and equality focal points of their engagement with fans and the local community.

"A few individuals and groups, who do not believe in 'the Aston Villa Way' should not be allowed to spoil this hard work. We will continue to up our efforts alongside the club, the Football Supporters' Association and Kick It Out to tackle this type of behaviour."

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