In-depth study reveals football commentary has clear evidence of 'racial bias'

Man Utd's Paul Pogba on the ball vs Brighton

The topic of racism within football is one of primary importance.

It's an issue as relevant as ever and one that must be eradicated from the sport as soon as possible.

The impact of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement upon society in recent months has helped further highlight many of the problems within the game.

One such issue is that of racial bias in football commentary. A study conducted by RunRepeat, in partnership with The Professional Footballers' Association, has analysed over 2,073 statements from commentators during 80 games from the Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A in 2019/20.

The findings from the study show a clear racial bias, with commentators much more likely to praise a player with a lighter skin tone for their intelligence for example.

Below, we've provided the key data from the study, conducted by RunRepeat's Danny McLoughlin.

  • When commentators talk about the 'intelligence' of a player, 62.60% of praise was aimed at players with lighter skin tone, while 63.33% of criticism was aimed at players with darker skin tone
  • When a commentator is talking about a player's 'power', they are 6.59 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
  • When they're commenting on a specific player's 'speed', they are 3.38 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
  • When commentators discuss and praise a player for their 'work ethic', 60.40% of praise is aimed at players with lighter skin tone

One instance where players were praised and criticised equally was when commentators made purely factual in-game statements, which you can see below.

Graph 1

But that's where the equality starts and ends. Below, you can view RunRepeat's graphs on the distribution of different comments throughout the 80 games.

Graph 2 Graph 2

RunRepeat ran another study based on 643 unique players - 433 with a lighter skin tone and 210 with a darker skin tone - analysing who commentators criticised and praised per subject.

To make the study fair, the number of comments made about darker skin tone players have been multiplied to equal the number of that made about players with a lighter skin tone.

You can view the results below.

Graph 3 Graph 4 Graph 5 Graph 6

The results are clear and this is yet another systemic racial issue that needs to be examined by football's governing bodies.

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