Football: business, discrimination and the COVID-19

There was a hate crime incident at one in ten football matches of the 2019/2020 season in England and Wales, according to police data. The number of arrests for racist or “indecent” chanting rose more than twice from 14 in the previous season to 35 in the last one. The number seems high, especially as more than five hundred out of almost three thousand matches of that season were cancelled or organized without the audience due to the pandemic.

Despite players and football associations campaigns against hate, the stadiums remain a rather unwelcoming environment for fans of other races and sexual orientations. According to the statistic from 2016, 82% of people who observed anti-LGBT abuse at a sporting event in Scotland, witnessed it at a football game.

While Chinese investors are stepping back, American businessmen are looking for good deals in European football. They already hold major stakes in one-fifth of the teams playing in the top UK, Italy, and France leagues, and many are looking for new opportunities. Clubs from the Old Continent are less expensive than investing in top-tier sports in the US, and they offer global exposure that helps to attract consumers from all over the world. Now, with the COVID pandemic, it is easier to buy stakes for the lower price making significant acquisitions for the investors who believe that sports – and football – will revive.

With the qualification round for the FIFA World Cup coming soon, tensions between the global federation – FIFA, and the domestic football leagues grow. Clubs are required by the global federation to release players for international duties, but recently they are hesitant to do so among the fear of the pandemic. On Friday American Major League Soccer was the first one to block its footballers from playing in their national teams.