Brighton boss Chris Hughton wants supporters who abuse footballers to be punished “as hard as possible” and feels social media is helping to tackle the issue.
Hughton’s comments came after Seagulls defender Gaetan Bong was subjected to boos and derogatory chants when he came on as a substitute in Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay win against West Brom.
It was Bong’s first return to The Hawthorns since he accused Baggies striker Jay Rodriguez of making a racist comment in January 2018, an allegation which was “not proven” following an investigation by the Football Association.
There have been a number of high-profile incidents of Premier League footballers suffering abuse this season, with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah targeted because of his Muslim faith at West Ham on Monday evening and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling suffering alleged racism at Chelsea in December.
Hughton believes abuse of players is a long-standing problem in the sport, but feels it is becoming easier to highlight incidents and identify culprits.
“As regards what we hear, particularly of late, do I feel that the abuse has got more? Probably the answer to that one is no,” he said.
“With social media these days, it’s being picked up far more and far quicker than it has in the past.
“The negative is that it still goes on, the plus is that it’s jumped upon a lot quicker now. I think there are sections of support that are not prepared to accept it and will recognise it and will report it.
“It’s up to the game as a whole and the authorities to stamp what they can out as quick as possible and making sure the punishments are as hard as possible.”
Rodriguez played the opening 45 minutes of Wednesday’s match and was not on the field at the same time as Bong.
The 29-year-old claimed following last season’s incident he had told Bong that his breath smelled.
Some West Brom fans responded in midweek by singing the Brighton player was a “smelly b******” and jeering every time he touched the ball.
A section of Brighton supporters also aimed chants at Rodriguez, calling him a racist.
“If I can speak about what we do here at Brighton, on any incidences we have here they are very quickly picked up and dealt with,” added Hughton.
“And I think that’s very much the case for most clubs. I think you have got to give the clubs credit.
“I don’t generally feel that we’ve gone from the game being in a far better place to things having got worse.
“I think there have always been incidences.”
Press Association Sport understands the FA was made aware of the chanting but felt neither group of fans took part in anything discriminatory.