‘Racism threatens to turn the beautiful game ugly’: West Ham United urged to do more on hate crime

Unmesh Desai AM

Unmesh Desai AM - Credit: Archant

A City Hall politician has urged West Ham United to reveal plans to tackle hate crimes on match days.

The London Stadium, home of West Ham United. Picture: Steven Paston/PA

The London Stadium, home of West Ham United. Picture: Steven Paston/PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Unmesh Desai, Labour's London Assembly spokesman for policing and crime, has written to every football league club in the capital urging them to address low rates of hate crime reporting.

Mr Desai said: "We have seen some shocking incidents over the last few years which sadly demonstrate racism is threatening to turn the beautiful game ugly.

"It is vital clubs take proactive measures to root out the small minority of fans in their grounds seeking to peddle hate and racism."

In the letter addressed to Baroness Karren Brady, vice-chairman of West Ham, Mr Desai points to evidence from the mayor of London's office revealing only 116 hate crime offences were recorded at London football grounds between January 2015 and December 2018.

It follows a report published by anti-racism organisation Kick it Out which found that in the UK, half of all fans surveyed had witnessed racist abuse, but less than half knew how to report it.

Mr Desai asks what measures clubs will have in place during the forthcoming football season to stop offences and ensure fans know how to report hate crimes.

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He urged clubs to distance themselves from the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA), activists accused of fuelling racism in the game.

"The pernicious influence of divisive groups such as the DFLA cannot be left unchecked," he said.

The letter adds: "Whilst the [DFLA] has repeatedly stated it does not promote a racist, far-right mantra, their rallies have been attended by well-known neo-Nazis and featured definitively Islamophobic speeches."

The featuring of the Hammers crest in a section on the DFLA website labelled Club Badges "serves to highlight that they are using your club's fanbase to garner support for their organisation", the letter says.

A West Ham United spokesman said: "It is well known that the club is unequivocal in its stance against all forms of racism and discrimination - they have no place in our communities and no place in football.

"Equality is at the heart of West Ham United and our community values run deep throughout the club. Any belief, group or movement that does not share those values will not be welcome."