Football fans in Hertfordshire could soon be able to report hate crimes such as homophobic or racist abuse without having to go to a police station.
That's because Herts Police and The FA want to make grounds 'third-party reporting centres'.
This means if victims do not feel comfortable going directly to the police, they can report incidents to their club anonymously, before the details are forwarded on their behalf.
It comes after a 'homophobia in football' survey found almost half of supporters had heard homophobic abuse in the last three years.
The survey was completed by over 400 of the county's football fans and found that 61% of respondents felt that football clubs should do more to educate fans, while 20% would not feel comfortable to report the offence if they became a victim at a match.
A special training session for the county's football clubs has now taken place at the University of Hertfordshire, with attendees from Potters Bar, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley and Watford Ladies football clubs.
Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls, the Constabulary's strategic lead for sexuality and gender identity, said: "The finding's from last year's survey show that there is still a lot of work to do in tackling homophobia in football and I'm delighted that so many clubs have shown their support in helping us to end this, along with all other forms of hate crime.
"We will be continuing to work with the Hertfordshire FA to reduce the incidents of homophobic and other hate crimes through this and other initiatives.
"Being different is not a crime but being victimised because of it is. Hate crimes can have a severe impact on the victim and on the wider community in which they occur. We will not tolerate this and we are committed to ensuring that hate crime is reported so that we can better understand the problem and help to stop it happening."
Karl Lingham, CEO at Hertfordshire FA added: "We take hate crime extremely seriously and are committed to eradicating it from the game at all levels. Our partnership with Hertfordshire Constabulary is important to us and we work together to support our clubs.
"It is encouraging to see Hertfordshire non-league clubs in attendance, who are being proactive in creating a safer and more inclusive atmosphere at their clubs.
"This will benefit players, fans, volunteers and coaches and ensure that everyone feels comfortable in being involved. Without evidence we cannot act, so we would encourage everyone to report any incidents."
- Reporting hate crime
Hate crimes are crimes like any other, but that have the added distinction that the victim was targeted because of their disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
Victims and witnesses can report incidents to police without fear via the non-emergency number 101, online at www.herts.police.uk/Report or 999 if a crime is on-going. Victims can be reassured that they will be taken seriously and treated with sensitivity.
For more information about hate crime, including how to report it and where to get support go to www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/hertsagainsthate.
- Contacting an LGBT+ Liaison Officer
LGBT+ Liaison Officers can be reached by calling the non-emergency number 101 or by contacting us online at www.herts.police.uk/Report. In an emergency or if a crime is on-going, report it immediately via 999. The support of an LGBT+ Officer can then be requested if required. We will treat what you tell us sensitively and in confidence.