Racial bias is evident in soccer commentary according to a new study carried out by a Danish research firm in partnership with the Professional Footballers' Association.
The research found that when commentators talk about power, they are over six times more likely to be talking about a player with a darker skin tone.
“Players with a darker skin tone were significantly more likely to be reduced to their physical characteristics or athletic abilities -- namely pace and power -- than players with a lighter skin tone were, ” the report states.
The study analysed more than 2,000 statements made by commentators from 80 games across the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue Un. The numbers were ratio-adjusted to account for the fact that there were more comments made about lighter-skinned players.
"Commentators praised players with a lighter skin tone as more intelligent, as being of higher quality, and harder working than players with a darker skin tone,” according to the report.
When commentators talk about intelligence, the data reveals that over 60% of praise was aimed at players with a lighter skin tone . On the other hand, over 63% of criticism with regards intelligence was directed at players of a darker skin tone.
Also, when commentators discussed work ethic, over 60% of praise was aimed at players with a lighter skin tone.
“If there was no bias in commentary, the distribution of comments towards players of different skin colors would be similar,” the report explains. Given that this is not the case across a large sample size, "it indicates there is bias in the way the media discusses players based on the color of their skin".
Reacting to the findings, Jason Lee, the Professional Footballers' Association Equalities Executive said, "This study shows an evident bias in how we describe the attributes of footballers based on their skin colour."
"Commentators help shape the perception we hold of each player, deepening any racial bias already held by the viewer. It’s important to consider how far-reaching those perceptions can be and how they impact footballers even once they finish their playing career," Lee continued.
"If a player has aspirations of becoming a coach, is an unfair advantage given to players that commentators regularly refer to as intelligent and industrious, when those views appear to be a result of racial bias?”