Governing bodies across the men and women’s game are uniting to take a stance against those who continue to tarnish the game
A social media boycott has been announced across English football, with the FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and FSA uniting to put a blackout in place between April 30 and May 3.
Action is being taken in a bid to “eradicate online hate while highlighting the importance of educating people in the ongoing fight against discrimination”, with the UK government also being urged to push through “strong legislation” in its Online Safety Bill.
The 2020-21 campaign has delivered more instances of sportspeople being targeted by online trolls, with the general consensus of those running the game being that social media companies are not doing enough to put “real-life consequences” in place for “purveyors of abuse across all platforms”.
What has been said?
Edleen John, The FA’s Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, has said in an official statement: “It’s simply unacceptable that people across English football and society more broadly continue to be subjected to discriminatory abuse online on a daily basis, with no real-world consequences for perpetrators.
“This needs to change quickly, and we continue to urge social media companies to act now to address this. We will not stop talking about this issue and will continue to work with government in ensuring that the Online Safety Bill gives sufficient regulatory and supervisory powers to Ofcom. Social media companies need to be held accountable if they continue to fall short of their moral and social responsibilities to address this endemic problem.
“We have recently seen how powerful it can be when everybody is united for the good of the English game. We are calling on organisations and individuals across the game to join us in a temporary boycott of these social media platforms, to show solidarity and unite in the message that English football will not tolerate discrimination in any form.”
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters added: “Racist behaviour of any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse we are seeing players receive on social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue.
“The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in staging this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more in eliminating racial hatred. We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse on their platforms.
“Football is a diverse sport, which brings together communities and cultures from all backgrounds and this diversity makes the competition stronger. No Room For Racism represents all the work we do to promote equality, diversity and inclusion and tackling discrimination.”
Trevor Birch, chief executive of the EFL, said: “EFL clubs have expressed a clear desire to take a united stand against abhorrent racist, discriminatory, and threatening abuse on social media platforms which we fully support alongside the rest of the football family.
“While we recognise the value and role social media plays in our game, online abuse will not be tolerated and we will continue to strongly pursue all avenues open to us to affect change.
“The boycott is only part of the work being undertaken in this area but further highlights the need for social media companies to take additional responsibility for the inappropriate and unwelcome behaviour that appears on their platforms.
Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out Chair, said: “Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. This boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game. By removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change.
“We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family. We need the Government to hold its nerve and keep its promises to regulate. The Online Safety Bill could be a game changer and we aim to help make that happen. There should be no space for hate and everyone can play their part. If you watch, work in or love the game, join in.”
Richard Bevan, chief executive at the LMA, said: “The LMA fully supports the social media boycott across the professional game. A unified silence will send a loud and powerful message to those that perpetrate online abuse that their actions will no longer be tolerated, and to the social media companies that they have a responsibility to do everything in their power to eradicate online hate.
“We also urge Government to understand the significance of this collective action and to ensure that its Online Safety Bill delivers appropriately strong legislation.”
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association, said: “The Football Supporters’ Association is fully behind the game’s efforts to stamp out online hate and discrimination and will join next weekend’s social media boycott. Much media attention has rightly focused on the vile abuse aimed at players, managers and journalists in the men’s and women’s game and we see that aimed at fans groups too. It has to stop.
“Many of our most active fan groups tell us that they have received disgusting abuse when they are doing nothing more than trying to represent their supporter base. It’s a threat to the very existence of supporter organisations who are run by volunteers in their spare time. As fans we stand with players, managers, referees and all in the game in calling for the social media companies to step up.”
The bigger picture
The planned social media boycott will take place across a full fixture programme in the men and women’s game, with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts being switched off.
The blackout will run from 3pm GMT on Friday April 30 to 11.59pm on Monday May 3.
Former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry has already announced that he will not be using social media again until the companies concerned stamp down on discriminative posts.
Tottenham forward Gareth Bale has said that he would be happy to do likewise, with protests attracting enough support that blanket action is now being taken across the board in English football.