• AFP-Jiji, Reuters


English soccer clubs and leagues will stage a three-day social media boycott next weekend as part of a protest against racism, officials announced Saturday.

Clubs across the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will switch off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to emphasize that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate.

“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,” Premier League CEO Richard Masters said in a statement.

“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.”

Referees and managers’ organizations will also be involved.

A joint statement from the participating organizations said they would unite for a social media boycott “in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to football.

“As a collective, the game recognizes 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 emphasize that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate, while highlighting the importance of educating people in the ongoing fight against discrimination.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson recently said he would be prepared to follow Arsenal and France great Thierry Henry in abandoning all online activity as a protest against racist behaviour.

Swansea acted after Yan Dhanda, Ben Cabango and Jamal Lowe were all targeted, while England’s Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Raheem Sterling are also among a long list of players to have been subjected to racist abuse.

Many have questioned whether in the long-term, soccer can really afford to cut itself off from the economic and fan-engagement benefits of social media.

And there are those who argue that ensuring all posters used their real identity would place political dissidents and corporate whistle-blowers at risk as much as it would make it easier to identify racist “trolls.”

But the organizers of this latest blackout said they nonetheless felt compelled to take a stand.

“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,” their statement said.

Back in February, eight members of the coalition wrote to Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, the chief executives of Facebook and Twitter, saying their platforms and those of Instagram, owned by Facebook, should be doing more to clamp down on abuse.

Saturday’s statement said “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 U.K. 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.”

In Scotland, Rangers staged a weeklong boycott following a Europa League match against Slavia Prague where Glen Kamara was abused.

Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela has been banned for 10 matches by UEFA after being found guilty of racist behaviour towards Kamara.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.