STEPS taken by the police to tackle hate crime in Sussex have been supported by football clubs across the county.

The force has marked Hate Crime Awareness Week (October 10 – 17) by highlighting the work being done to reduce and prevent hate crime in Sussex, identifying those responsible for it and supporting those affected by it.

The police’s efforts have been supported by football clubs in Sussex, who work closely with the force’s dedicated football officer Police Constable Darren Balkham to try and reduce the number of hate incidents reported at matches.

This work includes an action plan which helps football clubs deal with any incidents of hate crime in the stands, including how to capture evidence. It also talks about positive outcomes and empowers stewards to take action, supported by police.

The plan was initially recognised by the English Football League and has since been presented to the Premier League, which has also adopted it as part of its campaign to eradicate hate crime from the sport.

Sussex Police has also pledged its support to Kick It Out, a national anti-discrimination organisation funded by the Football Association.

The educational arm of Kick It Out gives officers the option of referring someone who has committed a hate crime at football to a workshop. This has been utilised by police in Sussex and Surrey with positive results.

Any case that goes to court also includes an impact statement regarding homophobia, and in particular how it affects football fans and the wider community.

Superintendent Rachel Swinney, Sussex Police’s lead for hate crime, said: “We understand the devastating impact hate crime has on its victims, but also the damaging effect it has on wider communities and the area as a whole.

“There is no place for hate in Sussex, and no place for it in football. We will continue working with clubs and communities across the county to spread that message and make Sussex a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.”

PC Balkham added: “We are really pleased to have the support of football clubs across the county as we continue to try and reduce incidents of hate crime in Sussex.

“Although fans aren’t allowed in stadiums to watch live football at the moment, our work has continued behind the scenes and we have plans and processes in place so that when fans do return to matches, any incidents of hate crime are identified and responded to effectively.”