Unconscious bias in football commentary
RunRepeat, in partnership with The Professional Footballers' Association conducted a study on racial bias within football commentary. They analysed 2,073 statements from commentators in 80 football matches from the 2019/20 season.
This is the first time a study of this kind has been conducted to understand if there is a difference in the way the football media talks about players of different skin colour.
- The findings show bias from commentators who praised players with lighter skin tones as more intelligent, higher quality and harder working than players with darker skin tones.
- Players with darker skin tones were significantly more likely to be reduced to their physical characteristics or athletic abilities -- namely pace and power -- than those with lighter skin tones.
Players have been unified in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement, sending a strong message about equality. The researchers of this study would argue commentators and media have an equally important role to play.
“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. If a player has aspirations of becoming a coach/manager, 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?”
- Jason Lee, PFA Equalities Executive