Action Against Discrimination and the Board of Deputies have welcomed an announcement that the Premier League, English Football League and FA Women’s Super League will switch off their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts tomorrow (3pm) until May 3 (11.59pm).
The boycott takes place “across a full fixture programme” and is a response to discriminatory and racial online abuse directed at footballers, pundits and members of the footballing community that has become the norm in recent months.
The professional leagues joined the Football Association, Professional Footballers’ Association and Kick It Out in a joint statement calling on social media companies to eradicate online hate whilst highlighting the importance of educating people in the fight against discrimination.
The group noted, “While football takes a stand, we urge the UK government to ensure its Online Safety Bill will bring in strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms, as discussed at the DCMS Online Abuse round table earlier this week.”
The Football Supporters’ Association, League Managers’ Association, Women in Football, Women’s Championship and Professional Game Match Officials Limited also committed to the boycott.
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said, “Racist abuse online is never acceptable. Our new online safety laws hold social media companies to account for tackling it, with large fines if they don’t. I’ve met footballers to help shape these laws. By working together we will stop this.”
“We are willing to take the harder, legislative measures,” he added.
A BoD spokesman said, “Not nearly enough is being done by social media companies to combat such abuse, whether it involves anti-black racism, misogyny, homophobia or antisemitism. With regard to the latter, we note recent examples such as the antisemitic abuse aimed at Celtic’s Nir Bitton after the Old Firm Derby in January, the vile responses in March to Aston Villa wishing Jewish fans a ‘Happy Passover’ and antisemitic abuse thrown at Jews perceived to have involvement with the failed Super League”. They added, “Such abuse, whether it comes from the stands at a game or the replies to an social media post, is unacceptable.”
AAD pointed out that following the announcement of the European Super League, Jewish owners of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were subjected to online abuse including standard anti- Semitic stereotypes.
AAD have been consistent in its insistence that clubs, football authorities, police and social media platforms have to do much more to prevent and eradicate this behaviour.
Jonathan Metliss, AAD Chairman, commented, “We hope this weekend’s planned boycott makes social media platforms stand up and take notice, prompting those responsible into taking serious and appropriate action and eradicating this behaviour and identifying the culprits.”
Premier League’s Richard Masters commented, “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.”
Edleen John, The FA’s Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, noted, “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.” She added, “We have recently seen how powerful it can be when everybody is united for the good of the English game.” Trevor Birch, EFL, said: “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.”
Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out, added, “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.”
Richard Bevan, LMA, said, “A unified silence will send a loud and powerful message to those that perpetrate online abuse that their actions will no longer be tolerated.”
Kevin Miles, Football Supporters’ Association, noted, “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.”