The Three Lions coach says football will continue to fight for a more tolerant and respectful society
England manager Gareth Southgate has warned those who engage in racist and other forms of abuse online that they are on the “losing side” as he pledged to use his platform to help the fight against prejudice.
An increasing number of players have been subjected to racist and other forms of discriminatory abuse online in recent months.
A social media blackout was organised by the English game’s various stakeholders over a matchday weekend towards the end of the season to raise awareness of the issue, and Southgate says he and his players will continue to push for a more “tolerant and understanding” society.
What did Southgate say?
In an open letter to England fans on the Players’ Tribune, the Three Lions boss said: “Social media has been a key resource in giving our players a platform and has been a positive tool in so many ways. In fact, I feel like this generation of England players is closer to the supporters than they have been for decades. Despite the polarisation we see in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.
“That said, there are times when my parental instincts kick in. I can’t help it. After all, I’m old enough to be a father to most of my players!
“I see players scrolling on their phones straight after the final whistle and I think ‘hmmm, is that a particularly good idea?’
“Reading abusive comments on Twitter or Instagram is never going to help performance.
“There are genuine risks for our players online and I will always want to protect them, but I would never put rules on how or when they use their accounts while on England duty. I trust them and know they are mature enough to make their own decisions, to do what’s right for their mental health and to keep being a force for good as we strive for a better society.
“The last 18 months have put added pressure on everyone, I know. Venting that might have taken place while walking out of the stadium, or in the pub has been transferred online. I get that. However, there are things I will never understand.
“Why would you tag someone in on a conversation that is abusive? Why would you choose to insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin? Why?
“Unfortunately for those people that engage in that kind of behaviour, I have some bad news. You’re on the losing side. It’s clear to me that we are heading for a much more tolerant and understanding society, and I know our lads will be a big part of that.”
Players will continue to fight for equality
Southgate also says he and his players will continue to use their high profiles to push for positive change in society.
The issue was given greater prominence last week when a section of England supporters booed the players taking the knee before their games against Austria and Romania.
Southgate, who has already reiterated that the players will continue to take the knee before games to call attention to racial injustice, dismisses suggestions they should not get involved in such issues.
“I have never believed that we should just stick to football,” he added.
“I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold. At home, I’m below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men’s football team manager. I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.
“It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.”