A new report has revealed racial bias in European soccer commentary.
According to the report from Danish firm RunRepeat, carried out in partnership with the UK Professional Footballers’ Association, the findings show bias from commentators who praised players with lighter skin tone as more intelligent, as being of higher quality, and harder working than players with darker skin tone.
Players with darker skin tone were significantly more likely to be reduced to their physical characteristics or athletic abilities — namely pace and power — than players with lighter skin tone players were.
The first-of-its-kind study analyzed 2,073 statements from English-language commentators in 80 soccer matches from across four of Europe’s top leagues (UK, Spain, France, Italy) in the 2019/20 season. The comments discussed 643 unique players of various races and skin tones.
The research was sourced from seven broadcasters: Sky Sports, BT Sport, FreeSports, beIN Sports, TSN, NBCSN and ESPN. Only about 5% of the commentators and co-commentators were from a black, asian or minority ethnic background.
The research concluded that the findings showed “bias from commentators”.
“The continuous praise for players with lighter skin tone for their skill level, leadership and cognitive abilities combined with the continuous criticism for players with darker skin tone is likely to influence the perception of the soccer watching public,” said the researchers.
The report has prompted ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley to call for “proper training” for pundits and co-commentators, saying he has written to the Professional Footballers’ Association about the matter.
Some key findings of the report:
- When commentators talk about intelligence:
- 62.60% of praise was aimed at players with lighter skin tone
- 63.33% of criticism was aimed at players with darker skin tone
- When commentators are talking about power they are 6.59 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
- When commentators are talking about speed they are 3.38 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
- When commentators talk about work ethic, 60.40% of praise is aimed at players with lighter skin tone
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