Governing bodies across the sport 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, FSA and UEFA 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.”
In announcing their decision to join the boycott, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: “There have been abuses both on the pitch and on social media. This is unacceptable and needs to be stopped, with the help of the public and legislative authorities and the social media giants.
“Allowing a culture of hatred to grow with impunity is dangerous, very dangerous, not only for football, but for society as a whole. This is why we are supporting this initiative. It is time for football to take a stand and I have been impressed with the solidarity shown by the players, clubs and stakeholders.
“I urge everyone – players, clubs and national associations – to lodge formal complaints whenever players, coaches, referees or officials are victims of unacceptable tweets or messages. We’ve had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies.”
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 BST 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.