Football: New Rules on Discrimination and Racism

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

On 6 August 2020, the English Football Association (FA) published new Rules on Discrimination and Racism, under which stadiums of football clubs could be closed and players and fans could face fines for acts of discrimination, including racist chants and gestures.

The new Rules come into force next season (2020-21) and apply to all domestic competitions and to almost all forms of discrimination.

Players and coaches could face bans of between six and twelve games.

Before issuing the new Rules, the FA consulted amongst a wide range of stakeholders, including the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and the LMA (League Managers’ Association), as well representatives of Clubs and Leagues.

In a Statement, the FA pointed out that:

The fact that an incident of discrimination by an individual took place in private or outside of a standard football setting will not now be a barrier to the FA issuing proceedings.”

The full text of the FA Statement may be accessed at

Polly Handford, the FA Director of Legal and Governance, made it clear that:

We are committed to investigating, charging and sanctioning all forms of discrimination with consistency and transparency.”

However, it should be pointed out that the FA does not have jurisdiction over individuals, unless they participate in football, and, therefore, any racist chants by spectators, will result in sanctions being imposed on the Football Clubs to which they belong, leaving the Clubs themselves to take such disciplinary action against the offenders as may be appropriate and just in the circumstances, no doubt including, in the very serious cases, of life-time bans.

There has been much talk for a long time about kicking racism out of football and it will be interesting to see how robustly the FA enforce the new Rules.

In particular, those who wish to see the integrity of the ‘beautiful game’ upheld and safeguarded, will be watching what happens next very closely indeed!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘’