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English soccer to boycott social media in response to online abuse

Coalition of governing bodies and organisations to suspend use of their accounts this weekend.

26 April 2021 PA
  • Boycott to take place from 3pm GMT on 30th April until 11.59pm on 3rd May
  • Decision comes after Swansea City, Birmingham City and Rangers took part in social media blackouts in recent weeks

A coalition of English soccer's largest governing bodies and organisations including the Football Association (FA), Premier League and English Football League (EFL) will go silent on social media this weekend in a show of solidarity against racism.

The FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), League Managers Association (LMA), Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL), Kick It Out, Women in Football and the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) will also suspend all use of their social media accounts from 3pm GMT on Friday 30th April until 11.59pm on Monday 3rd May.

The PA news agency understands pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports, which is partnered with Kick It Out, is supportive of the social media blackout. It is understood BT Sport is also likely to join the boycott, with formal discussions due to take place before the weekend.

The move follows social media blackouts by Swansea City, Birmingham City and Rangers in recent weeks, with Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson stating he would be willing to follow Arsenal great Thierry Henry in coming offline altogether in protest against racist behaviour.

The Swans were prompted to take action after Yan Dhanda, Ben Cabango and Jamal Lowe were all targeted, while Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings are also on the long list of players to have suffered racist abuse online in recent times.

A joint statement from the organisations staging the boycott read: 'The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out, Women in Football and the FSA will unite for a social media boycott from 3pm on Friday 30th April to 11.59pm on Monday 3rd May, in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to football.

'This has been scheduled to take place across a full fixture programme in the men’s and women’s professional game and will see clubs across the Premier League, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship switch off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

'As a collective, the game recognises the considerable reach and value of social media to our sport. The connectivity and access to supporters who are at the heart of football remains vital.

'However, the boycott shows English football coming together to emphasise that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate, while highlighting the importance of educating people in the ongoing fight against discrimination.'

It added: 'Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight.'

In February, eight of the coalition wrote a letter to Twitter and Facebook’s chief executives Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg stating those platforms, along with Instagram which is owned by Facebook, needed do more to stamp out abuse.

The latest statement said that 'while some progress has been made, we reiterate those requests today in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms'.

'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 roundtable earlier this week,' it added.

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