Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore believes the competition has "inadvertently fostered safe places for excessive aggression" following allegations Raheem Sterling suffered racist abuse during Manchester City's 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.
Chelsea suspended four people from attending their matches pending an investigation, with the club and the Metropolitan Police both looking into whether the England international was abused by supporters.
Sterling addressed the incident in an Instagram post on Sunday, saying: "I don't expect no better."
The 24-year-old also highlighted contrasting coverage of white and black footballers in the UK media, "which helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour", opening up a wider debate.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, City manager Pep Guardiola hailed Sterling as an "incredible person" and called on society as a whole to be vigilant against problems of discrimination and abuse that exist far beyond football
In an article for The Times newspaper, Scudamore sounded a similar tone.
"Abuse of the kind we have seen in football recently is appalling and totally unacceptable. Raheem Sterling is showing great courage in speaking out and we must listen to him, and to other players," Scudamore said.
"We must support them and redouble our efforts to ensure that everyone involved in our competition understands that discrimination will not be tolerated.
"We strive to make our grounds safe and welcoming for all fans. We are a multicultural and diverse football competition, we have players from all backgrounds and fans from all over the world.
"However, the need for vigilance has never been greater as norms of decency in society appear to be shifting, particularly since the advent of social media."
Scudamore, who will stand down at the end of 2018 after 19 years in his role, highlighted the Premier League's work at community level, educational and outreach programmes alongside anti-discrimination group Kick It Out and initiatives such as the Premier League Equality Standard.
However, despite identifying the progress made by such steps and the fact fans from BAME communities making up 17 per cent of Premier League attendees – up from 12 per cent 10 years ago – he acknowledged there remains much to be done.
"While football has made huge progress and society has made big strides in improving attitudes and behaviours, we clearly have not done enough," Scudamore added.
"In creating exciting, passionate environments we have inadvertently fostered safe places for excessive aggression to be displayed.
"Nowhere else - not on the street or in a pub - would people be brave enough to shout abuse at a group of very fit young athletes at such close proximity.
"We all need to take a close look at where that boundary should lie: between the adrenaline of passionate support and the wholly unacceptable vitriol and abuse masquerading as tribalism.
"Our clubs, the authorities and the FA are working towards further and urgent improvement - it is essential for the future of the game."