Baby Footsteps in Football’s Fight Against Racism

FCNA has an Editorial Category called Gamechangers where we cover stories that we believe demonstrate people or events that have started to make a difference. Does the news that English football is boycotting Social Media across a three-day period next weekend merit inclusion as a Gamechanger?

The social media boycott will last from 3 pm on Friday 30 April to 11.59 pm on Monday 3 May, covering a full fixture programme in the men’s and women’s professional game at a vital stage of the season

It comes hard on the heels of a series of high-profile online racist attacks on players, primarily from the Premier League. These include the Liverpool players Trent Alexander-Arnold, Naby Keïta, and Sadio Mané following on after the club’s defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month. In their statement announcing the boycott, the Premier League said 

‘In our letter of February 2021, English football outlined its requests of social media companies, urging filtering, blocking and swift takedowns of offensive posts, an improved verification process and re-registration prevention, plus active assistance for law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute originators of illegal content.

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.

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. ‘The frustration felt by the Premier League seems evident judging by the quote above and it does seem that the game itself can only, realistically, do a certain amount until the key Social Media players taking action to control abuse at the source.

This point was made very succinctly by Edleen John, The FA’s Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and we quote “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.” So to return to our earlier musing, is this a Gamechanger? Nobody knows at this moment, but we do think that this gesture, yes, at this stage only a gesture, is a very positive start. Provided the game is prepared to enact this boycott again, and for longer, and as often as necessary, then the curse of racism will start to diminish. Alongside positive action from many other sources, the boycott may just start to be a Gamechanger.

*All articles written on express the views of our writers. Whilst these are mostly aligned with our beliefs, they remain the independent opinions of our contributors.*